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Genetic Mismatch Keeps Yeast Species Distinct

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How species form and what keeps them distinct from each other, even though they can interbreed, is a key question in evolution. Researchers from Taiwan, led by Dr. Jun-Yi Leu, an Assistant Research Fellow from the Institute of Molecular Biology at Academia Sinica, have recently identified genes in three closely-related yeast species that cause sterility, increasing our understanding of how species can remain distinct. The findings are published in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology.

If one species mates with another, the hybrids produced often die or are unable to reproduce. Such hybrids can provide clues about the process of speciation. At the molecular level, one cause of the inability of hybrids to reproduce (reproductive isolation) results from a mismatch between genes, which prevents those genes functioning properly. There are various types of such genetic incompatibility, one of which is a mismatch between genes in the nucleus and those in the mitochondrion (a vital organelle playing a key role in cell respiration, the process by which cells produce energy).
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