Relative developmental success of interspecific Lepomis hybrids as an estimate of gene regulatory divergence between species

Henry R. Parker, David P. Philipp, Gregory S. Whitt

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The developmental success of interspecific Lepomis hybrids is used as an index of gene regulatory divergence between the green sunfish, L. cyanellus, and each of three other parental species, longear sunfish, L. megalotis, warmouth, L. gulosus, and bluegill, L. macrochirus. This gene regulatory divergence is compared to the degree of structural gene divergence among these four species (genetic distance [Nei, '78], D, ranged from 0.206 to 0.586). The developmental success of the hybrid embryos at the level of morphogenesis was higher than expected from the genetic distance between the parental species. The rates of morphogenesis of the hybrid embryos were the same as that for the green sunfish embryos. The percentage of embryos that hatched was relatively high in all crosses. However, two of the hybrid crosses resulted in enhanced percentages of hatched embryos. Slight increases in the extent of morphological abnormalities were observed in hybrids from crosses between more distantly related parental species. The schedules and levels of enzyme locus expression of the hybrids, assessed spectrophotometrically and electrophoretically for nine enzyme systems (encoded in a total of 14 loci), were different from each other and from those of the green sunfish embryos. Alterations in the time of first enzyme appearance and in the time of first increase in enzyme activity in the developing hybrid embryos were not correlated with genetic distance between parental species. However, the extents of alteration of enzyme activities over the entire period of hybrid embryogenesis were correlated with the genetic distance. We attribute the morphological and molecular anomalies observed in the hybrids to gene regulatory incompatibilities between species. Although the exact number of mutational differences and their relative developmental impacts are not known, some inferences can be drawn about the degree of divergence in gene regulation between species. It appears that an uncoupling of the rates of structural and regulatory gene evolution can occur between species of some taxa, an observation that has implications for the roles of gene regulatory differences in organismic evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-466
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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