The recent origin of sex chromosomes in plant species provides an opportunity to study the early stages of sex chromosome evolution. This review focuses on the cytogenetic aspects of the analysis of sex chromosome evolution in plants and in particular, on the best-studied case, the sex chromosomes in Silene latifolia. We discuss the emerging picture of sex chromosome evolution in plants and the further work that is required to gain better understanding of the similarities and differences between the trends in animal and plant sex chromosome evolution. Similar to mammals, suppression of recombination between the X and Y in S. latifolia species has occurred in several steps, however there is little evidence that inversions on the S. latifolia Y chromosome have played a role in cessation of X/Y recombination. Secondly, in S. latifolia there is a lack of evidence for genetic degeneration of the Y chromosome, unlike the events documented in mammalian sex chromosomes. The insufficient number of genes isolated from this and other plant sex chromosomes does not allow us to generalize whether the trends revealed on S. latifolia Y chromosome are general for other dioecious plants. Isolation of more plant sex-linked genes and their cytogenetic mapping with fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) will ultimately lead to a much better understanding of the processes driving sex chromosome evolution in plants.
2008 S. Karger AG, Basel