Limited Gene Misregulation Is Exacerbated by Allele-Specific Upregulation in Lethal Hybrids between Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans

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Misregulation of gene expression is often observed in interspecific hybrids and is generally attributed to regulatory incompatibilities caused by divergence between the two genomes. However, it has been challenging to distinguish effects of regulatory divergence from secondary effects including developmental and physiological defects common to hybrids. Here, we use RNA-Seq to profile gene expression in F1 hybrid male larvae from crosses of Drosophila melanogaster to its sibling species D. simulans. We analyze lethal and viable hybrid males, the latter produced using a mutation in the X-linked D. melanogaster Hybrid male rescue (Hmr) gene and compare them with their parental species and to public data sets of gene expression across development. We find that Hmr has drastically different effects on the parental and hybrid genomes, demonstrating that hybrid incompatibility genes can exhibit novel properties in the hybrid genetic background. Additionally, we find that D. melanogaster alleles are preferentially affected between lethal and viable hybrids. We further determine that many of the differences between the hybrids result from developmental delay in the Hmr+ hybrids. Finally, we find surprisingly modest expression differences in hybrids when compared with the parents, with only 9% and 4% of genes deviating from additivity or expressed outside of the parental range, respectively. Most of these differences can be attributed to developmental delay and differences in tissue types. Overall, our study suggests that hybrid gene misexpression is prone to overestimation and that even between species separated by approximately 2.5 Ma, regulatory incompatibilities are not widespread in hybrids.

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