The Pace of Hybrid Incompatibility Evolution in House Mice.

PMID 26199234


Hybrids between species are often sterile or inviable. This form of reproductive isolation is thought to evolve via the accumulation of mutations that interact to reduce fitness when combined in hybrids. Mathematical formulations of this "Dobzhansky-Muller model" predict an accelerating buildup of hybrid incompatibilities with divergence time (the "snowball effect"). Although the Dobzhansky-Muller model is widely accepted, the snowball effect has only been tested in two species groups. We evaluated evidence for the snowball effect in the evolution of hybrid male sterility among subspecies of house mice, a recently diverged group that shows partial reproductive isolation. We compared the history of subspecies divergence with patterns of quantitative trait loci (QTL) detected in F2 intercrosses between two pairs of subspecies (Mus musculus domesticus with M. m. musculus and M. m. domesticus with M. m. castaneus). We used a recently developed phylogenetic comparative method to statistically measure the fit of these data to the snowball prediction. To apply this method, QTL were partitioned as either shared or unshared in the two crosses. A heuristic partitioning based on the overlap of QTL confidence intervals produced unambiguous support for the snowball effect. An alternative approach combining data among crosses favored the snowball effect for the autosomes, but a linear accumulation of incompatibilities for the X chromosome. Reasoning that the X chromosome analyses are complicated by low mapping resolution, we conclude that hybrid male sterility loci have snowballed in house mice. Our study illustrates the power of comparative genetic mapping for understanding mechanisms of speciation.