Introgression, also known as introgressive hybridization, in genetics (particularly plant genetics) is the movement of a gene (gene flow) from one species into the gene pool of another by the repeated backcrossing of an interspecific hybrid with one of its parent species. Purposeful introgression is a long-term process; it may take many hybrid generations before the backcrossing occurs.
Introgression is an important source of genetic variation in natural populations and a major cause of speciation in the sympatric mode. It can have important effects on the dynamics of hybrid zones, speciation and adaptive radiation. There is evidence that introgression is a ubiquitous phenomenon in plants, animals, and even humans, in which it may have introduced the microcephalin D allele.
Introgression differs from simple hybridization. Introgression results in a complex mixture of parental genes, while simple hybridization results in a more uniform mixture, which in the first generation will be an even mix of two parental species. Natural introgression does not have human direct interference while the exotic introgression is induced intentionally (as for instance genetically modified organisms[clarification needed]) or not (human activities affecting local races of crops or human disturbances such as by introducing weeds).
An example of introgression is that of a transgene from a transgenic plant to a wild relative[contradiction] as the result of a successful hybridization leading to intentional or unintentional "genetic pollution". Another important example has been studied by Arnold & Bennett 1993: irises species from southern Louisiana.
Another important example of introgression has been observed in butterfly mimicry. Genus Heliconius has been studied. This genus is formed by 43 species and a lot of races with different color pattern. It is known that different species of this genus, that have overlapping distributions, show similar color pattern. The distribution of the subspecies H. melpomene amaryllis and H. melpomene timareta ssp. nov are overlapped. Some researchers have seen with ABBA/BABA test that there is around 2-5% of introgression between both species. It is important to know that, this is not a random introgression. They saw that, there is as important introgression in chromosomes 15 and 18, where important mimicry loci are located (loci B/D and N/Yb). They compared both subspecies with H.melpomene agalope, that is a subspecies near to H.melpomene amaryllis in entire genome trees. The result of this experiment was that there is no relation between those two species and H.melpomene agalope in the loci B/D and N/Yb. Moreover, they did the same experiment with other two species that have overlapping distributions. Those two species were H.timareta Florencia and H.melpomene agalope. They demonstrated that there were introgression between those two species, especially in the loci B/D and N/Yb. Finally, they concluded their experiments with Sliding-window phylogenetic analyses, where different regions of the loci were studied. They created different phylogenetic trees depending on the different regions of the loci. When the area of the locus is important in the color pattern expression, there is a close relation between the species explained before. When the area of the locus is not important in the color pattern expression, the two species are far away from each other, because in this area, there is no introgression.
An introgression line (abbreviation: IL) in plant molecular biology is a line of a crop species that contains genetic material derived from a similar species, for example a "wild" relative. An example of a collection of ILs (called IL-Library) is the use of chromosome fragments from Solanum pennellii (a wild variety of tomato) introgressed in Solanum lycopersicum (the cultivated tomato). The lines of an IL-Library covers usually the complete genome of the donor. Introgression lines allow the study of quantitative trait loci, but also the creation of new varieties by introducing exotic traits.
See also 
- Gene flow
- Genetic engineering
- Genetically modified organism
- Transgenic plant
- Chimera (genetics)
- Gene pool
- Genetic pollution
- Genetic erosion
- Grant, P.R., Grant, B.R. & Petren, K. (2005). "Hybridization in the Recent Past". The American Naturalist 166: 56–67. (available online at The American Naturalist)
- Dowling T. E., Secor C. L. (1997). "The role of hybridization and introgression in the diversification of animals". Annual Review Ecology and Systematics 28: 593–619. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.28.1.593.
- Bullini L (1994). "Origin and evolution of animal hybrid species". Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9 (11): 422–426. doi:10.1016/0169-5347(94)90124-4. PMID 21236911.
- Holliday T. W. (2003). "Species concepts, reticulations, and human evolution". Current Anthropology 44 (5): 653–673. doi:10.1086/377663.
- Evans, Pd; Mekel-Bobrov, N; Vallender, Ej; Hudson, Rr; Lahn, Bt (Nov 2006). "Evidence that the adaptive allele of the brain size gene microcephalin introgressed into Homo sapiens from an archaic Homo lineage". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103 (48): 18178–83. Bibcode:2006PNAS..10318178E. doi:10.1073/pnas.0606966103. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 1635020. PMID 17090677.
- Arnold, M. L. & Bennett, B. D. (1993). "Natural Hybridization in Louisiana irises: genetic variation and ecological determinants". In: Harrison, R. G. (ed.) Hybrid Zones and Evolutionary Process, pp. 115-139. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-19-506917-4
The Heliconius genome Consortium. Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature 487,94-98 (2012)
Further reading 
- Arnold, M. L. (2007). Evolution through Genetic Exchange. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-922903-1.
- Anderson, E. 1949. Introgressive Hybridization. Wiley, New York.
- Eyal Friedman et al., "Zooming In on a Quantitative Trait for Tomato Yield Using Interspecific Introgressions", Science vol.305 pag.1786-1798 (2004)
- Rieseberg, L. H. & Wendel, J. F. (1993). "Introgression and its consequences in plants". In: Harrison, R. G. (ed.) Hybrid Zones and Evolutionary Process, pp. 70–109. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-19-506917-4
- Martinsen G. D., Whitham R. J. Turek, Keim P. (2001). "Hybrid populations selectively filter gene introgression between species". Evolution 55 (7): 1325–1335. PMID 11525457.
- Whitney, K.D., Ahern J.R.,Campbell L.G, Albert L.P., King M.S. (2010). [ "Patterns of hybridization in plants"]. Evolution and Sytematics 12: 175–182.