Origin of Plant Hybrid Incompatibility


Hybrid incompatibility (HI) can cause inviability or sterility of inter‐ or intra‐species hybrids, which hinders gene flow between populations and thus contributes to speciation. HI clearly reduces fitness, but is extremely common across kingdoms. The classic Bateson–Dobzhansky–Muller model suggests that HI is caused by the genic conflicts between independently evolved loci. In this case, HI is simply a by‐product of evolution and has never been selected against. This model is supported by dozens of empirical studies and many incompatible HI‐causal genes have been cloned in recent decades. The HI‐causal genes are usually hyper‐polymorphic and evolve rapidly. Genetic drift, selection and the coevolution of plants with external microbes, or with internal selfish elements, may have driven the evolution of HI. These findings greatly broaden our understanding of the origin of HI.

Key Concepts

  • Hybrid incompatibility is caused by the deleterious interactions between incompatible genes that evolved independently.
  • Hybrid incompatibility is a by‐product of evolution.
  • Co‐evolution of plants and their external or internal factors, such as pathogens and genetic selfish elements, drives the evolution of hybrid incompatibilities in plants.
  • The causal genes of hybrid incompatibilities is predictable.
  • Hybrid incompatibility causal genes are rapidly evolved.
  • Some hybrid incompatibility causal genes are selected.
  • Gene duplication play important roles for the evolution of hybrid incompatibility.

Keywords: hybrid incompatibility; reproductive barriers; Batoson–Dobzhansky–Muller model; HI‐causal gene; evolutionary drive; selection

Figure 1. Illustrations of the extrinsic and intrinsic hybrid incompatibilities. P1 and P2 are individuals from different populations. They showed adaptations to their corresponding environment. For extrinsic hybrid incompatibility (a), the hybrids derived from P1 and P2 cannot survive in the niches of their parents. The failure of the hybrids is due to difficulties to find a suitable ecological niche. In contract, for intrinsic hybrid incompatibilities (b), the inferior hybrids derived from P1 and P2 are caused by internal development defects rather than ecological maladaptation. They cannot survive in any environment.
Figure 2. Understanding of the Bateson–Dobzhansky–Muller model in an evolutionary aspect. The ancestral population have been divided into two distinct populations owing to geographic barriers. The genotype of the ancestor was aa and bb at the loci ‘a’ and ‘b’, respectively. In one population, the ‘a’ allele was mutated into ‘A’ and fixed in the population; while in the other, the ‘b’ allele was evolved into ‘B’ and fixed. The ‘A’ and ‘B’ alleles are not compatible, which cause the inviability or sterility of the hybrids derived from the two populations. Because the alleles ‘A’ and ‘B’ never had chance to be tested in the history, the inferior hybrid do not represent a necessary step for evolution. Instead, they are by‐products of the evolution. Recent studies revealed that some of the causal genes of hybrid incompatibilities were directly selected. In addition, genetic drift and hitchhiking effect may also contribute to the evolution of hybrid incompatibilities.


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Further Reading

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Vaid N and Laitinen RAE (2018) Diverse paths to hybrid incompatibility in Arabidopsis . The Plant Journal: 1–15.

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Chen, Chen(Feb 2019) Origin of Plant Hybrid Incompatibility. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028283]