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Genetics. 2006 Oct;174(2):839-50. Epub 2006 Sep 1.

Sequence diversity, reproductive isolation and species concepts in Saccharomyces.

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Institute of Genetics, Queen's Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, United Kingdom.


Using the biological species definition, yeasts of the genus Saccharomyces sensu stricto comprise six species and one natural hybrid. Previous work has shown that reproductive isolation between the species is due primarily to sequence divergence acted upon by the mismatch repair system and not due to major gene differences or chromosomal rearrangements. Sequence divergence through mismatch repair has also been shown to cause partial reproductive isolation among populations within a species. We have surveyed sequence variation in populations of Saccharomyces sensu stricto yeasts and measured meiotic sterility in hybrids. This allows us to determine the divergence necessary to produce the reproductive isolation seen among species. Rather than a sharp transition from fertility to sterility, which may have been expected, we find a smooth monotonic relationship between diversity and reproductive isolation, even as far as the well-accepted designations of S. paradoxus and S. cerevisiae as distinct species. Furthermore, we show that one species of Saccharomyces--S. cariocanus--differs from a population of S. paradoxus by four translocations, but not by sequence. There is molecular evidence of recent introgression from S. cerevisiae into the European population of S. paradoxus, supporting the idea that in nature the boundary between these species is fuzzy.

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