Friday, February 18, 2011

The Evolution of Sex Chromosomes

Sex chromosomes have arisen independently in many taxonomic groups. It is an interesting question whether the same mechanisms were involved each time.

Sex chromosomes are an oddity in flowering plants. They are limited to dioecious species and only a few examples are known. The genus Silene, which includes the White Campion, includes both dioecious and hermaphrodite species and three of the dioecious species, Silene dioica, S. latifolia, and S. diclinis,  have an X-Y sex-determination system where Y specifies maleness.
Although the X-Y system evolved quite recently in Silene (less than 10 million years ago) compared to mammals (about 320 million years ago), our results suggest that similar processes have been at work in the evolution of sex chromosomes in plants and mammals, and shed some light on the molecular mechanisms suppressing recombination between X and Y chromosomes.

Ref:  Nicolas M, Marais G, Hykelova V, Janousek B, Laporte V, et al. (2005) A Gradual Process of Recombination Restriction in the Evolutionary History of the Sex Chromosomes in Dioecious Plants. PLoS Biol 3(1).

There's a synopsis of the article in the same issue: Evolution of Sex Chromosomes: The Case of the White Campion.

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