Rafati N, Blanco-Aguiar JA, Rubin CJ, Sayyab S, Sabatino SJ, Afonso S, Feng C, Alves PC, Villafuerte R, Ferrand N, Andersson L, Carneiro M
Mol. Ecol. 27 (6) 1457-1478 [2018-03-00; online 2018-02-11]
Speciation is a process proceeding from weak to complete reproductive isolation. In this continuum, naturally hybridizing taxa provide a promising avenue for revealing the genetic changes associated with the incipient stages of speciation. To identify such changes between two subspecies of rabbits that display partial reproductive isolation, we studied patterns of allele frequency change across their hybrid zone using whole-genome sequencing. To connect levels and patterns of genetic differentiation with phenotypic manifestations of subfertility in hybrid rabbits, we further investigated patterns of gene expression in testis. Geographic cline analysis revealed 253 regions characterized by steep changes in allele frequency across their natural region of contact. This catalog of regions is likely to be enriched for loci implicated in reproductive barriers and yielded several insights into the evolution of hybrid dysfunction in rabbits: (i) incomplete reproductive isolation is likely governed by the effects of many loci, (ii) protein-protein interaction analysis suggest that genes within these loci interact more than expected by chance, (iii) regulatory variation is likely the primary driver of incompatibilities, and (iv) large chromosomal rearrangements appear not to be a major mechanism underlying incompatibilities or promoting isolation in the face of gene flow. We detected extensive misregulation of gene expression in testis of hybrid males, but not a statistical overrepresentation of differentially expressed genes in candidate regions. Our results also did not support an X chromosome-wide disruption of expression as observed in mice and cats, suggesting variation in the mechanistic basis of hybrid male reduced fertility among mammals.