Congrats to graduated MSc student Ellen Nikelski (now PhD student, University of Toronto) on the publication of her paper on co-introgression of mitochondrial and nuclear genes between Pine Buntings and Yellowhammers.
Fig. 1 from the paper:
The full citation:
Nikelski, E., A.S. Rubtsov, and D. Irwin. 2022. High heterogeneity in genomic differentiation between phenotypically divergent songbirds: a test of mitonuclear co-introgression. Heredity, published online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41437-022-00580-8
Comparisons of genomic variation among closely related species often show more differentiation in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and sex chromosomes than in autosomes, a pattern expected due to the differing effective population sizes and evolutionary dynamics of these genomic components. Yet, introgression can cause species pairs to deviate dramatically from general differentiation trends. The yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) and pine bunting (E. leucocephalos) are hybridizing avian sister species that differ greatly in appearance and moderately in nuclear DNA, but that show no mtDNA differentiation. This discordance is best explained by adaptive mtDNA introgression—a process that can select for co-introgression at nuclear genes with mitochondrial functions (mitonuclear genes). To better understand these discordant differentiation patterns and characterize nuclear differentiation in this system, we investigated genome-wide differentiation between allopatric yellowhammers and pine buntings and compared it to what was seen previously in mtDNA. We found significant nuclear differentiation that was highly heterogeneous across the genome, with a particularly wide differentiation peak on the sex chromosome Z. We further investigated mitonuclear gene co-introgression between yellowhammers and pine buntings and found support for this process in the direction of pine buntings into yellowhammers. Genomic signals indicative of co-introgression were common in mitonuclear genes coding for subunits of the mitoribosome and electron transport chain complexes. Such introgression of mitochondrial DNA and mitonuclear genes provides a possible explanation for the patterns of high genomic heterogeneity in genomic differentiation seen among some species groups.