Breaking a species barrier by enabling hybrid recombination

G. Ozan Bozdag, Jasmine Ono, Jai A. Denton, Emre Karakoc, Neil Hunter, Jun Yi Leu, Duncan Greig

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Hybrid sterility maintains reproductive isolation between species by preventing them from exchanging genetic material1. Anti-recombination can contribute to hybrid sterility when different species’ chromosome sequences are too diverged to cross over efficiently during hybrid meiosis, resulting in chromosome mis-segregation and aneuploidy. The genome sequences of the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces paradoxus have diverged by about 12% and their hybrids are sexually sterile: nearly all of their gametes are aneuploid and inviable. Previous methods to increase hybrid yeast fertility have targeted the anti-recombination machinery by enhancing meiotic crossing over. However, these methods also have counteracting detrimental effects on gamete viability due to increased mutagenesis2 and ectopic recombination3. Therefore, the role of anti-recombination has not been fully revealed, and it is often dismissed as a minor player in speciation1. By repressing two genes, SGS1 and MSH2, specifically during meiosis whilst maintaining their mitotic expression, we were able to increase hybrid fertility 70-fold, to the level of non-hybrid crosses, confirming that anti-recombination is the principal cause of hybrid sterility. Breaking this species barrier allows us to generate, for the first time, viable euploid gametes containing recombinant hybrid genomes from these two highly diverged parent species. Bozdag et al. show that relieving anti-recombination during hybrid meiosis dissolves the reproductive barrier between two yeast species by enabling their chromosomes to recombine and segregate properly. This confirms anti-recombination as the major cause of hybrid sterility and allows interbreeding of distant species for research or commercial use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R180-R181
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 22 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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