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Genetics. 2011 Sep;189(1):289-304. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.129171. Epub 2011 Jul 12.

Genetic dissection of a key reproductive barrier between nascent species of house mice.

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Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1580, USA.


Reproductive isolation between species is often caused by deleterious interactions among loci in hybrids. Finding the genes involved in these incompatibilities provides insight into the mechanisms of speciation. With recently diverged subspecies, house mice provide a powerful system for understanding the genetics of reproductive isolation early in the speciation process. Although previous studies have yielded important clues about the genetics of hybrid male sterility in house mice, they have been restricted to F1 sterility or incompatibilities involving the X chromosome. To provide a more complete characterization of this key reproductive barrier, we conducted an F2 intercross between wild-derived inbred strains from two subspecies of house mice, Mus musculus musculus and Mus musculus domesticus. We identified a suite of autosomal and X-linked QTL that underlie measures of hybrid male sterility, including testis weight, sperm density, and sperm morphology. In many cases, the autosomal loci were unique to a specific sterility trait and exhibited an effect only when homozygous, underscoring the importance of examining reproductive barriers beyond the F1 generation. We also found novel two-locus incompatibilities between the M. m. musculus X chromosome and M. m. domesticus autosomal alleles. Our results reveal a complex genetic architecture for hybrid male sterility and suggest a prominent role for reproductive barriers in advanced generations in maintaining subspecies integrity in house mice.

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