We describe here the results of a search of Mendelian inheritance in man, GENDIAG and other sources which suggest that, in comparison with autosomes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11, the X chromosome may contain a significantly higher number of sex- and reproduction-related (SRR) genes. A similar comparison between X-linked entries and a subset of randomly chosen entries from the remaining autosomes also indicates an excess of genes on the X chromosome with one or more mutations affecting sex determination (e.g. DAX1), sexual differentiation (e.g. androgen receptor) or reproduction (e.g. POF1). A possible reason for disproportionate occurrence of such genes on the X chromosome could be that, during evolution, the 'choice' of a particular pair of homomorphic chromosomes for specialization as sex chromosomes may be related to the number of such genes initially present in it or, since sex determination and sexual dimorphism are often gene dose-dependent processes, the number of such genes necessary to be regulated in a dose-dependent manner. Further analysis of these data shows that XAR, the region which has been added on to the short arm of the X chromosome subsequent to eutherian-marsupial divergence, has nearly as high a proportion of SRR genes as XCR, the conserved region of the X chromosome. These observations are consistent with current hypotheses on the evolution of sexually antagonistic traits on sex chromosomes and suggest that both XCR and XAR may have accumulated SRR traits relatively rapidly because of X linkage.
Genetic determinants of sex in placental mammals developed by the evolution of primordial autosomes into the male and female sex chromosomes. The Y chromosome determines maleness by the action of the gene SRY, which encodes a protein that initiates a sequence of events prompting the embryonic gonads to develop into testes. The X chromosome in the absence of a Y chromosome results in a female by permitting the conversion of the embryonic gonads into ovaries. We trace the historical progress that resulted in the discovery that one X chromosome in the female is randomly inactivated in early embryogenesis, accomplishing approximate equivalency of X chromosome gene dosage in both sexes. This event results in half of the somatic cells in a tissue containing proteins encoded by the genes of the maternal X chromosome and half having proteins encoded by the genes of the paternal X chromosome, on average, accounting for the phenotype of a female heterozygote with an X chromosome mutation. The hypothesis of X chromosome inactivation as a random event early in embryogenesis was first described as a result of studies of variegated coat color in female mice. Similar results were found in women using the X chromosome-linked gene, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, studied in red cells. The random inactivation of the X chromosome-bearing genes for isoenzyme types A and B of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase was used to establish the clonal origin of neoplasms in informative women with leiomyomas. Behind these discoveries are the stories of the men and women scientists whose research enlightened these aspects of X chromosome function and their implication for medicine.
X chromosome; gene dosage; glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase; clonality
Two bursts of gene gains occurred on the mammalian X chromosome contribute to an age-dependent chromosomal distribution of male-biased genes.
Mammalian X chromosomes evolved under various mechanisms including sexual antagonism, the faster-X process, and meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI). These forces may contribute to nonrandom chromosomal distribution of sex-biased genes. In order to understand the evolution of gene content on the X chromosome and autosome under these forces, we dated human and mouse protein-coding genes and miRNA genes on the vertebrate phylogenetic tree. We found that the X chromosome recently acquired a burst of young male-biased genes, which is consistent with fixation of recessive male-beneficial alleles by sexual antagonism. For genes originating earlier, however, this pattern diminishes and finally reverses with an overrepresentation of the oldest male-biased genes on autosomes. MSCI contributes to this dynamic since it silences X-linked old genes but not X-linked young genes. This demasculinization process seems to be associated with feminization of the X chromosome with more X-linked old genes expressed in ovaries. Moreover, we detected another burst of gene originations after the split of eutherian mammals and opossum, and these genes were quickly incorporated into transcriptional networks of multiple tissues. Preexisting X-linked genes also show significantly higher protein-level evolution during this period compared to autosomal genes, suggesting positive selection accompanied the early evolution of mammalian X chromosomes. These two findings cast new light on the evolutionary history of the mammalian X chromosome in terms of gene gain, sequence, and expressional evolution.
Some evolutionary theories predict that the X chromosome will be enriched for genes with male functions. However, recent studies showed there had been gene traffic in which autosomal male-biased genes were retroposed from X-linked parental genes. A question remains about whether this pattern also holds for all types of new genes. Herein, using comparative genomic analysis, we dated all human and mouse genes to the vertebrate phylogenetic tree. We found that the X chromosome evolved with two bursts of gene origination events. The recent burst includes mainly male-biased genes in contrast to older X-linked genes that are often female-biased in expression. Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation contributes to this dynamic since it silences the older but not the younger X-linked genes. The older burst was after the split of eutherian mammals and the marsupial opossum, and the genes from this burst were quickly incorporated into transcriptional networks of multiple tissues, especially in the brain. The transcriptional expansion, together with the rapid protein evolution of the preexisting old X-linked genes, suggests that positive selection was acting in the early evolution of the mammalian X chromosome. These two lines of findings revealed extensive gene evolution in the mammalian X chromosome.
Meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI) during spermatogenesis has been proposed as one of the evolutionary driving forces behind both the under-representation of male-biased genes on, and the gene movement out of, the X chromosome in Drosophila. However, the relevance of MSCI in shaping sex chromosome evolution is controversial. Here we examine two aspects of a recent study on testis gene expression (Mikhaylova and Nurminsky, BMC Biol 2011, 9:29) that failed to support the MSCI in Drosophila. First, Mikhaylova and Nurminsky found no differences between X-linked and autosomal genes based on the transcriptional profiling of the early testis development, and thus concluded that MSCI does not occur in D. melanogaster. Second, they also analyzed expression data from several D. melanogaster tissues and concluded that under-representation on the X chromosome is not an exclusive property of testis-biased genes, but instead, a general property of tissue-specific genes.
By re-analyzing the Mikhaylova and Nurminsky's testis data and the expression data on several D. melanogaster tissues, we made two major findings that refuted their original claims. First, the developmental testis data has generally greater experimental error than conventional analyses, which reduced significantly the power to detect chromosomal differences in expression. Nevertheless, our re-analysis observed significantly lower expression of the X chromosome in the genomic transcriptomes of later development stages of the testis, which is consistent with the MSCI hypothesis. Second, tissue-specific genes are also in general enriched with genes more expressed in testes than in ovaries, that is testis-biased genes. By completely excluding from the analyses the testis-biased genes, which are known to be under-represented in the X, we found that all the other tissue-specific genes are randomly distributed between the X chromosome and the autosomes.
Our findings negate the original study of Mikhaylova and Nurminsky, which concluded a lack of MSCI and generalized the pattern of paucity in the X chromosome for tissue-specific genes in Drosophila. Therefore, MSCI and other selection-based models such as sexual antagonism, dosage compensation, and meiotic-drive continue to be viable models as driving forces shaping the genomic distribution of male-related genes in Drosophila.
Most of our knowledge of sex-chromosome evolution comes from male heterogametic (XX/XY) taxa. With the genome sequencing of multiple female heterogametic (ZZ/ZW) taxa, we can now ask whether there are patterns of evolution common to both sex chromosome systems. In all XX/XY systems examined to date, there is an excess of testis-biased retrogenes moving from the X chromosome to the autosomes, which is hypothesized to result from either sexually antagonistic selection or escape from meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI). We examined RNA-mediated (retrotransposed) and DNA-mediated gene movement in two independently evolved ZZ/ZW systems, birds (chicken and zebra finch) and lepidopterans (silkworm). Even with sexually antagonistic selection likely operating in both taxa and MSCI having been identified in the chicken, we find no evidence for an excess of genes moving from the Z chromosome to the autosomes in either lineage. We detected no excess for either RNA- or DNA-mediated duplicates, across a range of approaches and methods. We offer some potential explanations for this difference between XX/XY and ZZ/ZW sex chromosome systems, but further work is needed to distinguish among these hypotheses. Regardless of the root causes, we have identified an additional, potentially inherent, difference between XX/XY and ZZ/ZW systems.
sex chromosome; duplication; retrogene
B chromosomes are extra chromosomes to the standard complement that occur in many organisms. They can originate in a number of ways including derivation from autosomes and sex chromosomes in intra- and interspecies crosses. Their subsequent molecular evolution resembles that of univalent sex chromosomes, which involves gene silencing, heterochromatinization and the accumulation of repetitive DNA and transposons. B-chromosome frequencies in populations result from a balance between their transmission rates and their effects on host fitness. Their long-term evolution is considered to be the outcome of selection on the host genome to eliminate B chromosomes or suppress their effects and on the B chromosome's ability to escape through the generation of new variants. Because B chromosomes interact with the standard chromosomes, they can play an important role in genome evolution and may be useful for studying molecular evolutionary processes.
The human Y chromosome began to evolve from an autosome hundreds of millions of years ago, acquiring a sex-determining function and undergoing a series of inversions that suppressed crossing over with the X chromosome1,2. Little is known about the Y chromosome’s recent evolution because only the human Y chromosome has been fully sequenced. Prevailing theories hold that Y chromosomes evolve by gene loss, the pace of which slows over time, eventually leading to a paucity of genes, and stasis3,4. These theories have been buttressed by partial sequence data from newly emergent plant and animal Y chromosomes5-8, but they have not been tested in older, highly evolved Y chromosomes like that of humans. We therefore finished sequencing the male-specific region of the Y chromosome (MSY) in our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, achieving levels of accuracy and completion previously reached for the human MSY. We then compared the MSYs of the two species and found that they differ radically in sequence structure and gene content, implying rapid evolution during the past 6 million years. The chimpanzee MSY harbors twice as many massive palindromes as the human MSY, yet it has lost large fractions of the MSY protein-coding genes and gene families present in the last common ancestor. We suggest that the extraordinary divergence of the chimpanzee and human MSYs was driven by four synergistic factors: the MSY’s prominent role in sperm production, genetic hitchhiking effects in the absence of meiotic crossing over, frequent ectopic recombination within the MSY, and species differences in mating behavior. While genetic decay may be the principal dynamic in the evolution of newly emergent Y chromosomes, wholesale renovation is the paramount theme in the ongoing evolution of chimpanzee, human, and perhaps other older MSYs.
Drosophila albomicans is a unique model organism for studying both sex chromosome and B chromosome evolution. A pair of its autosomes comprising roughly 40% of the whole genome has fused to the ancient X and Y chromosomes only about 0.12 million years ago, thereby creating the youngest and most gene-rich neo-sex system reported to date. This species also possesses recently derived B chromosomes that show non-Mendelian inheritance and significantly influence fertility.
We sequenced male flies with B chromosomes at 124.5-fold genome coverage using next-generation sequencing. To characterize neo-Y specific changes and B chromosome sequences, we also sequenced inbred female flies derived from the same strain but without B's at 28.5-fold.
We assembled a female genome and placed 53% of the sequence and 85% of the annotated proteins into specific chromosomes, by comparison with the 12 Drosophila genomes. Despite its very recent origin, the non-recombining neo-Y chromosome shows various signs of degeneration, including a significant enrichment of non-functional genes compared to the neo-X, and an excess of tandem duplications relative to other chromosomes. We also characterized a B-chromosome linked scaffold that contains an actively transcribed unit and shows sequence similarity to the subcentromeric regions of both the ancient X and the neo-X chromosome.
Our results provide novel insights into the very early stages of sex chromosome evolution and B chromosome origination, and suggest an unprecedented connection between the births of these two systems in D. albomicans.
Drosophila albomicans; neo-sex chromosome; B chromosome
“Functional wasteland,” “Nonrecombining desert,” and
“Gene-poor chromosome” are only some examples of the different
definitions given to the Y chromosome in the last decade. In
comparison to the other chromosomes, the Y is poor in genes,
being more than 50% of its sequence composed of repeated
elements. Moreover, the Y genes are in continuous decay probably
due to the lack of recombination of this chromosome. But the
human Y chromosome, at the same time, plays a central role in
human biology. The presence or absence of this chromosome
determines gonadal sex. Thus, mammalian embryos with a Y
chromosome develop testes, while those without it develop ovaries
(Polani ). What is responsible for the male phenotype is
the testis-determining SRY gene (Sinclair ) which
remains the most distinguishing characteristic of this
chromosome. In addition to SRY, the presence of other genes with
important functions has been reported, including a region
associated to Turner estigmata, a gene related to the development
of gonadoblastoma and, most important, genes related to germ cell
development and maintenance and then, related with male fertility
(Lahn and Page ). This paper reviews the structure and
the biological functions of this peculiar chromosome.
Drosophila X chromosomes are disproportionate sources of duplicated genes, and these duplications are usually the result of retrotransposition of X-linked genes to the autosomes. The excess duplication is thought to be driven by natural selection for two reasons: X chromosomes are inactivated during spermatogenesis, and the derived copies of retroposed duplications tend to be testis expressed. Therefore, autosomal derived copies of retroposed genes provide a mechanism for their X-linked paralogs to “escape” X inactivation. Once these duplications have fixed, they may then be selected for male-specific functions. Throughout the evolution of the Drosophila genus, autosomes have fused with X chromosomes along multiple lineages giving rise to neo-X chromosomes. There has also been excess duplication from the two independent neo-X chromosomes that have been examined—one that occurred prior to the common ancestor of the willistoni species group and another that occurred along the lineage leading to Drosophila pseudoobscura. To determine what role natural selection plays in the evolution of genes duplicated from the D. pseudoobscura neo-X chromosome, we analyzed DNA sequence divergence between paralogs, polymorphism within each copy, and the expression profiles of these duplicated genes. We found that the derived copies of all duplicated genes have elevated nonsynonymous polymorphism, suggesting that they are under relaxed selective constraints. The derived copies also tend to have testis- or male-biased expression profiles regardless of their chromosome of origin. Genes duplicated from the neo-X chromosome appear to be under less constraints than those duplicated from other chromosome arms. We also find more evidence for historical adaptive evolution in genes duplicated from the neo-X chromosome, suggesting that they are under a unique selection regime in which elevated nonsynonymous polymorphism provides a large reservoir of functional variants, some of which are fixed by natural selection.
X chromosome; gene duplication; Drosophila; natural selection
Mammalian sex chromosomes originated from a pair of autosomes, and homologous genes on the sex chromosomes (gametologs) differentiated through recombination arrest between the chromosomes. It was hypothesized that this differentiation in eutherians took place in a stepwise fashion and left a footprint on the X chromosome termed “evolutionary strata.” The evolutionary stratum hypothesis claims that strata 1 and 2 (which correspond to the first two steps of chromosomal differentiation) were generated in the stem lineage of Theria or before the divergence between eutherians and marsupials. However, this prediction relied solely on the molecular clock hypothesis between pairs of human gametologs, and molecular evolution of marsupial sex chromosomal genes has not yet been investigated. In this study, we analyzed the following 7 pairs of marsupial gametologs, together with their eutherian orthologs that reside in stratum 1 or 2: SOX3/SRY, RBMX/Y, RPS4X/Y, HSFX/Y, XKRX/Y, SMCX/Y (KDM5C/D, JARID1C/D), and UBE1X/Y (UBA1/UBA1Y). Phylogenetic analyses and estimated divergence time of these gametologs reveal that they all differentiated at the same time in the therian ancestor. We have also provided strong evidence for gene conversion that occurred in the 3′ region of the eutherian stratum 2 genes (SMCX/Y and UBE1X/Y). The results of the present study show that (1) there is no compelling evidence for the second stratum in the stem lineage of Theria; (2) gene conversion, which may have occurred between SMCX/Y and UBE1X/Y in the eutherian lineage, potentially accounts for their apparently lower degree of overall divergence.
The evolution of genomic imprinting, the parental-origin specific expression of genes, is the subject of much debate. There are several theories to account for how the mechanism evolved including the hypothesis that it was driven by the evolution of X-inactivation, or that it arose from an ancestrally imprinted chromosome.
Here we demonstrate that mammalian orthologues of imprinted genes are dispersed amongst autosomes in both monotreme and marsupial karyotypes.
These data, along with the similar distribution seen in birds, suggest that imprinted genes were not located on an ancestrally imprinted chromosome or associated with a sex chromosome. Our results suggest imprinting evolution was a stepwise, adaptive process, with each gene/cluster independently becoming imprinted as the need arose.
Theoretical studies predict X chromosomes and autosomes should be under different selection pressures, and there should therefore be differences in sex-specific and sexually antagonistic gene content between the X and the autosomes. Previous analyses have identified an excess of genes duplicated by retrotransposition from the X chromosome in Drosophila melanogaster. A number of hypotheses may explain this pattern, including mutational bias, escape from X-inactivation during spermatogenesis, and the movement of male-favored (sexually antagonistic) genes from a chromosome that is predominantly carried by females. To distinguish among these processes and to examine the generality of these patterns, we identified duplicated genes in nine sequenced Drosophila genomes. We find that, as in D. melanogaster, there is an excess of genes duplicated from the X chromosome across the genus Drosophila. This excess duplication is due almost completely to genes duplicated by retrotransposition, with little to no excess from the X among genes duplicated via DNA intermediates. The only exception to this pattern appears within the burst of duplication that followed the creation of the Drosophila pseudoobscura neo-X chromosome. Additionally, we examined genes relocated among chromosomal arms (i.e., genes duplicated to new locations coupled with the loss of the copy in the ancestral locus) and found an excess of genes relocated off the ancestral X and neo-X chromosomes. Interestingly, many of the same genes were duplicated or relocated from the independently derived neo-X chromosomes of D. pseudoobscura and Drosophila willistoni, suggesting that natural selection favors the traffic of genes from X chromosomes. Overall, we find that the forces driving gene duplication from X chromosomes are dependent on the lineage in question, the molecular mechanism of duplication considered, the preservation of the ancestral copy, and the age of the X chromosome.
gene duplication; retrotransposition; sex chromosomes; neo-X chromosomes; X-inactivation
The X and Y sex chromosomes are conspicuous features of placental mammal genomes. Mammalian sex chromosomes arose from an ordinary pair of autosomes after the proto-Y acquired a male-determining gene and degenerated due to suppression of X-Y recombination. Analysis of earlier steps in X chromosome evolution has been hampered by the long interval between the origins of teleost and amniote lineages as well as scarcity of X chromosome orthologs in incomplete avian genome assemblies.
This study clarifies the genesis and remodelling of the Eutherian X chromosome by using a combination of sequence analysis, meiotic map information, and cytogenetic localization to compare amniote genome organization with that of the amphibian Xenopus tropicalis. Nearly all orthologs of human X genes localize to X. tropicalis chromosomes 2 and 8, consistent with an ancestral X-conserved region and a single X-added region precursor. This finding contradicts a previous hypothesis of three evolutionary strata in this region. Homologies between human, opossum, chicken and frog chromosomes suggest a single X-added region predecessor in therian mammals, corresponding to opossum chromosomes 4 and 7. A more ancient X-added ancestral region, currently extant as a major part of chicken chromosome 1, is likely to have been present in the progenitor of synapsids and sauropsids. Analysis of X chromosome gene content emphasizes conservation of single protein coding genes and the role of tandem arrays in formation of novel genes.
Chromosomal regions orthologous to Therian X chromosomes have been located in the genome of the frog X. tropicalis. These X chromosome ancestral components experienced a series of fusion and breakage events to give rise to avian autosomes and mammalian sex chromosomes. The early branching tetrapod X. tropicalis’ simple diploid genome and robust synteny to amniotes greatly enhances studies of vertebrate chromosome evolution.
X chromosome; Evolution; Xenopus; Synteny; Genome; TAG
Chromosome 9 is highly structurally polymorphic. It contains the largest autosomal block of heterochromatin, which is heteromorphic in 6–8% of humans, whereas pericentric inversions occur in more than 1% of the population. The finished euchromatic sequence of chromosome 9 comprises 109,044,351 base pairs and represents >99.6% of the region. Analysis of the sequence reveals many intra- and interchromosomal duplications, including segmental duplications adjacent to both the centromere and the large heterochromatic block. We have annotated 1,149 genes, including genes implicated in male-to-female sex reversal, cancer and neurodegenerative disease, and 426 pseudogenes. The chromosome contains the largest interferon gene cluster in the human genome. There is also a region of exceptionally high gene and G + C content including genes paralogous to those in the major histocompatibility complex. We have also detected recently duplicated genes that exhibit different rates of sequence divergence, presumably reflecting natural selection.
The evolution of sex chromosomes is often accompanied by gene or chromosome rearrangements. Recently, the gene AP3 was characterized in the dioecious plant species Silene latifolia. It was suggested that this gene had been transferred from an autosome to the Y chromosome.
In the present study we provide evidence for the existence of an X linked copy of the AP3 gene. We further show that the Y copy is probably located in a chromosomal region where recombination restriction occurred during the first steps of sex chromosome evolution. A comparison of X and Y copies did not reveal any clear signs of degenerative processes in exon regions. Instead, both X and Y copies show evidence for relaxed selection compared to the autosomal orthologues in S. vulgaris and S. conica. We further found that promoter sequences differ significantly. Comparison of the genic region of AP3 between the X and Y alleles and the corresponding autosomal copies in the gynodioecious species S. vulgaris revealed a massive accumulation of retrotransposons within one intron of the Y copy of AP3. Analysis of the genomic distribution of these repetitive elements does not indicate that these elements played an important role in the size increase characteristic of the Y chromosome. However, in silico expression analysis shows biased expression of individual domains of the identified retroelements in male plants.
We characterized the structure and evolution of AP3, a sex linked gene with copies on the X and Y chromosomes in the dioecious plant S. latifolia. These copies showed complementary expression patterns and relaxed evolution at protein level compared to autosomal orthologues, which suggests subfunctionalization. One intron of the Y-linked allele was invaded by retrotransposons that display sex-specific expression patterns that are similar to the expression pattern of the corresponding allele, which suggests that these transposable elements may have influenced evolution of expression patterns of the Y copy. These data could help researchers decipher the role of transposable elements in degenerative processes during sex chromosome evolution.
Mammalian sex-chromosomes originated from a pair of autosomes. A step-wise cessation of recombination is necessary for the proper maintenance of sex-determination and, consequently, generates a four strata structure on the X chromosome. Each stratum shows a specific per-site nucleotide sequence difference (p-distance) between the X and Y chromosomes, depending on the time of recombination arrest. Stratum 4 covers the distal half of the human X chromosome short arm and the p-distance of the stratum is ~10%, on average. However, a 100-kb region, which includes KALX and VCX, in the middle of stratum 4 shows a significantly lower p-distance (1-5%), suggesting frequent sequence exchanges or gene conversions between the X and Y chromosomes in humans. To examine the evolutionary mechanism for this low p-distance region, sequences of a corresponding region including KALX/Y from seven species of non-human primates were analyzed.
Phylogenetic analysis of this low p-distance region in humans and non-human primate species revealed that gene conversion like events have taken place at least ten times after the divergence of New World monkeys and Catarrhini (i.e., Old World monkeys and hominoids). A KALY-converted KALX allele in white-handed gibbons also suggests a possible recent gene conversion between the X and Y chromosomes. In these primate sequences, the proximal boundary of this low p-distance region is located in a LINE element shared between the X and Y chromosomes, suggesting the involvement of this element in frequent gene conversions. Together with a palindrome on the Y chromosome, a segmental palindrome structure on the X chromosome at the distal boundary near VCX, in humans and chimpanzees, may mediate frequent sequence exchanges between X and Y chromosomes.
Gene conversion events between the X and Y homologous regions have been suggested, mainly in humans. Here, we found frequent gene conversions in the evolutionary course of primates. An insertion of a LINE element at the proximal end of the region may be a cause for these frequent conversions. This gene conversion in humans may also be one of the genetic causes of Kallmann syndrome.
Accurate chromosome segregation during meiosis relies on homology between the maternal and paternal chromosomes. Yet by definition, sex chromosomes of the heterogametic sex lack a homologous partner. Recent studies in a number of systems have shed light on the unique meiotic behavior of heteromorphic sex chromosomes, and highlight both the commonalities and differences in divergent species. During meiotic prophase, the homology-dependent processes of pairing, synapsis, and recombination have been modified in many different ways to ensure segregation of heteromorphic sex chromosomes at the first meiotic division. Additionally, an almost universal feature of heteromorphic sex chromosomes during meiosis is transcriptional silencing, or meiotic sex chromosome inactivation, an essential process proposed to prevent expression of genes deleterious to meiosis in the heterogametic sex as well as to shield unpaired sex chromosomes from recognition by meiotic checkpoints. Comparative analyses of the meiotic behavior of sex chromosomes in nematodes, mammals, and birds reveal important conserved features as well as provide insight into sex chromosome evolution.
checkpoints; meiosis; meiotic sex chromosome inactivation (MSCI); synapsis; recombination
Sex chromosomes originated from ordinary autosomes, and their evolution is characterized by continuous gene loss from the ancestral Y chromosome. Here, we document a new feature of sex chromosome evolution: bursts of adaptive fixations on a newly formed X chromosome. Taking advantage of the recently formed neo-X chromosome of Drosophila miranda, we compare patterns of DNA sequence variation at genes located on the neo-X to genes on the ancestral X chromosome. This contrast allows us to draw inferences of selection on a newly formed X chromosome relative to background levels of adaptation in the genome while controlling for demographic effects. Chromosome-wide synonymous diversity on the neo-X is reduced 2-fold relative to the ancestral X, as expected under recent and recurrent directional selection. Several statistical tests employing various features of the data consistently identify 10%–15% of neo-X genes as targets of recent adaptive evolution but only 1%–3% of genes on the ancestral X. In addition, both the rate of adaptation and the fitness effects of adaptive substitutions are estimated to be roughly an order of magnitude higher for neo-X genes relative to genes on the ancestral X. Thus, newly formed X chromosomes are not passive players in the evolutionary process of sex chromosome differentiation, but respond adaptively to both their sex-biased transmission and to Y chromosome degeneration, possibly through demasculinization of their gene content and the evolution of dosage compensation.
Sex chromosomes have evolved independently many times in both animals and plants from ordinary chromosomes. Much research on sex chromosome evolution has focused on the degeneration and loss of genes from the Y chromosome. Here, we describe another principle of sex chromosome evolution: bursts of adaptive fixations on a newly formed X chromosome. By employing a comparative population genomics approach and taking advantage of the recently formed sex chromosomes in the fruit fly Drosophila miranda, we show that rates of adaptation are increased about 10-fold on a newly formed X chromosome relative to background levels of selection in the genome. This suggests that a young X chromosome responds adaptively to both its female-biased transmission and to Y chromosome degeneration. Thus, contrary to the traditional view of being passive players, the X chromosome has a very active role in the evolutionary process of sex chromosome differentiation.
Research on sex chromosome molecular evolution has focused on the degeneration of the Y chromosome, but new evidence highlights that important changes occur on the evolving X chromosome in the form of rapid bursts of adaptive evolution.
In female germ cells, the inactive X chromosome is reactivated before meiosis and thereafter remains active. In contrast, the X chromosome in males is inactivated during meiosis, and silencing is largely maintained during spermiogenesis.
The sex chromosomes play a highly specialized role in germ cell development in mammals, being enriched in genes expressed in the testis and ovary. Sex chromosome abnormalities (e.g., Klinefelter [XXY] and Turner [XO] syndrome) constitute the largest class of chromosome abnormalities and the commonest genetic cause of infertility in humans. Understanding how sex-gene expression is regulated is therefore critical to our understanding of human reproduction. Here, we describe how the expression of sex-linked genes varies during germ cell development; in females, the inactive X chromosome is reactivated before meiosis, whereas in males the X and Y chromosomes are inactivated at this stage. We discuss the epigenetics of sex chromosome inactivation and how this process has influenced the gene content of the mammalian X and Y chromosomes. We also present working models for how perturbations in sex chromosome inactivation or reactivation result in subfertility in the major classes of sex chromosome abnormalities.
Heteromorphic sex chromosomes, where one sex has two different types of sex chromosomes, face very different evolutionary consequences than do the autosomes. Two important features of sex chromosomes arise from being present in only copy in one of the sexes: dosage compensation and the meiotic silencing of sex chromosomes. Other differences arise because sex chromosomes spend unequal amounts of time in each sex. Thus, the impact of evolutionary processes (mutation, selection, genetic drift, and meiotic drive) differs substantially between each sex chromosome, and between the sex chromosomes and the autosomes. Sex chromosomes also play a disproportionate role in Haldane’s rule and other important patterns related to hybrid incompatibility, and thus speciation. We review the consequences of sex chromosomes on hybrid incompatibility. A theme running through this review is that epigenetic processes, notably those related to chromatin, may be more important to the evolution of sex chromosomes and the evolution of hybrid incompatibility than previously recognized.
sex chromosomes; hybrid incompatibility; speciation; evolution
Throughout mammalian evolution, recombination between the two sex chromosomes was suppressed in a stepwise manner. It is thought that the suppression of recombination led to an accumulation of deleterious mutations and frequent genomic rearrangements on the Y chromosome. In this article, we review three evolutionary aspects related to genomic rearrangements and structures, such as inverted repeats (IRs) and palindromes (PDs), on the mammalian sex chromosomes. First, we describe the stepwise manner in which recombination between the X and Y chromosomes was suppressed in placental mammals and discuss a genomic rearrangement that might have led to the formation of present pseudoautosomal boundaries (PAB). Second, we describe ectopic gene conversion between the X and Y chromosomes, and propose possible molecular causes. Third, we focus on the evolutionary mode and timing of PD formation on the X and Y chromosomes. The sequence of the chimpanzee Y chromosome was recently published by two groups. Both groups suggest that rapid evolution of genomic structure occurred on the Y chromosome. Our re-analysis of the sequences confirmed the species-specific mode of human and chimpanzee Y chromosomal evolution. Finally, we present a general outlook regarding the rapid evolution of mammalian sex chromosomes.
Ectopic gene conversion; evolutionary strata; inverted repeats; palindrames; recombination suppression.
Several studies in Drosophila have shown excessive movement of retrogenes from the X chromosome to autosomes, and that these genes are frequently expressed in the testis. This phenomenon has led to several hypotheses invoking natural selection as the process driving male-biased genes to the autosomes. Metta and Schlötterer (BMC Evol Biol 2010, 10:114) analyzed a set of retrogenes where the parental gene has been subsequently lost. They assumed that this class of retrogenes replaced the ancestral functions of the parental gene, and reported that these retrogenes, although mostly originating from movement out of the X chromosome, showed female-biased or unbiased expression. These observations led the authors to suggest that selective forces (such as meiotic sex chromosome inactivation and sexual antagonism) were not responsible for the observed pattern of retrogene movement out of the X chromosome.
We reanalyzed the dataset published by Metta and Schlötterer and found several issues that led us to a different conclusion. In particular, Metta and Schlötterer used a dataset combined with expression data in which significant sex-biased expression is not detectable. First, the authors used a segmental dataset where the genes selected for analysis were less testis-biased in expression than those that were excluded from the study. Second, sex-biased expression was defined by comparing male and female whole-body data and not the expression of these genes in gonadal tissues. This approach significantly reduces the probability of detecting sex-biased expressed genes, which explains why the vast majority of the genes analyzed (parental and retrogenes) were equally expressed in both males and females. Third, the female-biased expression observed by Metta and Schlötterer is mostly found for parental genes located on the X chromosome, which is known to be enriched with genes with female-biased expression. Fourth, using additional gonad expression data, we found that autosomal genes analyzed by Metta and Schlötterer are less up regulated in ovaries and have higher chance to be expressed in meiotic cells of spermatogenesis when compared to X-linked genes.
The criteria used to select retrogenes and the sex-biased expression data based on whole adult flies generated a segmental dataset of female-biased and unbiased expressed genes that was unable to detect the higher propensity of autosomal retrogenes to be expressed in males. Thus, there is no support for the authors’ view that the movement of new retrogenes, which originated from X-linked parental genes, was not driven by selection. Therefore, selection-based genetic models remain the most parsimonious explanations for the observed chromosomal distribution of retrogenes.
In birds, as in mammals, one pair of chromosomes differs between the sexes. In birds, males are ZZ and females ZW. In mammals, males are XY and females XX. Like the mammalian XY pair, the avian ZW pair is believed to have evolved from autosomes, with most change occurring in the chromosomes found in only one sex – the W and Y chromosomes1–5. By contrast, the sex chromosomes found in both sexes – the Z and X chromosomes – are assumed to have diverged little from their autosomal progenitors2. Here we report findings that overturn this assumption for both the chicken Z and human X chromosomes. The chicken Z chromosome, which we sequenced essentially to completion, is less gene-dense than chicken autosomes but contains a massive tandem array containing hundreds of duplicated genes expressed in testes. A comprehensive comparison of the chicken Z chromosome to the finished sequence of the human X chromosome demonstrates that each evolved independently from different portions of the ancestral genome. Despite this independence, the chicken Z and human X chromosomes share features that distinguish them from autosomes: the acquisition and amplification of testis-expressed genes, as well as a low gene density resulting from an expansion of intergenic regions. These features were not present on the autosomes from which the Z and X chromosomes originated but were instead acquired during the evolution of the Z and X as sex chromosomes. We conclude that the avian Z and mammalian X chromosomes followed convergent evolutionary trajectories, despite their evolving with opposite (female vs. male) systems of heterogamety. More broadly, in birds and mammals, sex chromosome evolution involved not only gene loss in sex-specific chromosomes, but also marked expansion and gene acquisition in sex chromosomes common to males and females.
Chromosome 17 is unusual among the human chromosomes in many respects. It is the largest human autosome with orthology to only a single mouse chromosome1, mapping entirely to the distal half of mouse chromosome 11. Chromosome 17 is rich in protein-coding genes, having the second highest gene density in the genome2,3. It is also enriched in segmental duplications, ranking third in density among the autosomes4. Here we report a finished sequence for human chromosome 17, as well as a structural comparison with the finished sequence for mouse chromosome 11, the first finished mouse chromosome. Comparison of the orthologous regions reveals striking differences. In contrast to the typical pattern seen in mammalian evolution5,6, the human sequence has undergone extensive intrachromosomal rearrangement, whereas the mouse sequence has been remarkably stable. Moreover, although the human sequence has a high density of segmental duplication, the mouse sequence has a very low density. Notably, these segmental duplications correspond closely to the sites of structural rearrangement, demonstrating a link between duplication and rearrangement. Examination of the main classes of duplicated segments provides insight into the dynamics underlying expansion of chromosome-specific, low-copy repeats in the human genome.