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Introgression, also known as introgressive hybridization, in 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 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).[citation needed]

Source of variation[edit]

Introgression is an important source of genetic variation in natural populations and may contribute to adaptation and even adaptive radiation.[1] It can occur across hybrid zones due to chance, selection or hybrid zone movement.[2] There is evidence that introgression is a ubiquitous phenomenon in plants, animals,[3][4] and even humans,[5] in which it may have introduced the microcephalin D allele.[6]


There is strong evidence for the introgression of Neanderthal genes[7] and Denisovan genes[8] into parts of the modern human gene pool.

See further:Archaic human admixture with modern humans

One important example of introgression has been observed in butterfly mimicry. Genus Heliconius has been studied. This genus comprehends 43 species and many races with different color patterns. Congeners exhibiting overlapping distributions show similar color patterns. The distribution of the subspecies H. melpomene amaryllis and H. melpomene timareta ssp. nov. overlap. Using the ABBA/BABA test, some researchers have observed that there is ≈2-5% introgression between the pair of subspecies. It is important to know that this is not random introgression. They saw 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, which is a subspecies near 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 performed the same experiment with two other species with overlapping distributions, H.timareta florencia and H.melpomene agalope. They demonstrated introgression between the two taxa, especially in the loci B/D and N/Yb. Finally, they concluded their experiments with sliding-window phylogenetic analyses, estimating different phylogenetic trees depending on the different regions of the loci. When a locus is important in the color pattern expression, there is a close phylogenetic relationship between the species. When the locus is not important in the color pattern expression, the two species are phylogenetically distant because there is no introgression at such loci.

Introgression could be an important conservation problem for wild species through hybridisation, for instance, between wild and domestic cats [9] or among wild canids and domestic dogs.[10]Another important example has been studied by Arnold & Bennett 1993: iris species from southern Louisiana.[11]

Introgression line[edit]

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 usually cover 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[edit]


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ Richard Buggs (2007). "Empirical study of hybrid zone movement". Heredity 99 (3): 301–312. doi:10.1038/sj.hdy.6800997. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Holliday T. W. (2003). "Species concepts, reticulations, and human evolution". Current Anthropology 44 (5): 653–673. doi:10.1086/377663. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Wills, Christopher (2011). "Genetic and Phenotypic Consequences of Introgression Between Humans and Neanderthals". Advances in Genetics 76. p. 27. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-386481-9.00002-X. ISBN 9780123864819. 
  8. ^ Huerta-Sánchez, Emilia; Jin, Xin; Asan; Bianba, Zhuoma; Peter, Benjamin M.; Vinckenbosch, Nicolas; Liang, Yu; Yi, Xin; He, Mingze; Somel, Mehmet; Ni, Peixiang; Wang, Bo; Ou, Xiaohua; Huasang; Luosang, Jiangbai; Cuo, Zha Xi Ping; Li, Kui; Gao, Guoyi; Yin, Ye; Wang, Wei; Zhang, Xiuqing; Xu, Xun; Yang, Huanming; Li, Yingrui; Wang, Jian; Wang, Jun; Nielsen, Rasmus (2014). "Altitude adaptation in Tibetans caused by introgression of Denisovan-like DNA". Nature 512 (7513): 194. doi:10.1038/nature13408. PMID 25043035. 
  9. ^ Review of scientific papers on gene introgression between wild and domestic cats
  10. ^ Review and link to scientific papers regarding introgression of dog genes into wild canid populations
  11. ^ 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

Further reading[edit]

  • 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
  • The Heliconius genome Consortium. Butterfly genome reveals promiscuous exchange of mimicry adaptations among species. Nature 487,94-98 (2012).