Hybrid breakdown and mitochondrial dysfunction in hybrids of Nasonia parasitoid wasps

C. K. Ellison, O. Niehuis, Juergen Gadau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Male F2 hybrids of the wasps Nasonia giraulti and Nasonia vitripennis suffer increased mortality during development. Previous studies suggested that the mitochondria may play an important role in this pattern of hybrid breakdown. The mitochondrial genome encodes 13 polypeptides, which are integral subunits of the oxidative phosphorylation enzyme complexes I, III, IV and V. We show that the mitochondrial ATP production rate and the efficacy of the enzyme complexes I, III and IV, but not that of the completely nuclear-encoded complex II, are reduced in F2 hybrid males of N. giraulti and N. vitripennis. We hypothesize that nuclear-mitochondrial protein interactions in the oxidative phosphorylation pathway are disrupted in these hybrids, reducing energy generation capacity and potentially reducing hybrid fitness. Our results suggest that dysfunctional cytonuclear interactions could represent an under-appreciated post-zygotic isolation mechanism that, due to elevated evolutionary rates of mitochondrial genes, evolves very early in the speciation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1844-1851
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Cytonuclear genic incompatibility
  • Hybrid breakdown
  • Hybrid inviability
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxidative phosphorylation
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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