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Evolutionary biologists glimpse early stages of Y-chromosome degeneration
Date:5/13/2014

some degeneration in Rumex hastatulus, an annual plant from the southern USA commonly known as heartwing sorrel. We found that genes on the Y chromosomes have already started to undergo genetic degeneration, despite their relatively recent origin," said Josh Hough, a PhD candidate in U of T's Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study. "Importantly, our results indicate that the extent of this degeneration depends on how long ago the genes on the sex chromosomes stopped recombining with each other."

The theory of sex chromosome evolution holds that Y-chromosome degeneration occurs as a result of X and Y chromosomes failing to recombine their genes during reproduction. Recombination is a key genetic process in which chromosomes pair and exchange their DNA sequences, and it occurs between all other chromosomes in the genome, including the X chromosome, which recombines in females. This genetic mixing has become suppressed between the X and Y chromosomes, however, probably because they contain genes that affect 'femaleness' and 'maleness', and combining these genes onto a single chromosome can cause infertility problems.

"Suppressing recombination between the X and Y makes sense because it prevents genes that determine female-specific traits from occurring on the Y chromosome," said Hough. But without recombination natural selection becomes less efficient, and harmful mutations cannot be removed from the Y chromosome. As a result, genes on the Y chromosome eventually become impaired in function or lost entirely."

The researchers crossed multiple male and female plants and then traced the inheritance of genes by sequencing the DNA in parents and their offspring. This allowed them to find which genes were located on the sex chromosomes because they segregate differently than genes on other chromosomes. Computer-assisted analyses of the genetic sequences enabled the scientists to then test for gene loss, loss of g
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Contact: Sean Bettam
s.bettam@utoronto.ca
416-946-7950
University of Toronto
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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