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Review
, 74, 345-53

Reconstructing the Evolution of Vertebrate Sex Chromosomes

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Review

Reconstructing the Evolution of Vertebrate Sex Chromosomes

D W Bellott et al. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol.

Abstract

Sex chromosomes and their evolution have captivated researchers since their discovery. For more than 100 years, the dominant model of sex chromosome evolution has held that differentiated sex chromosomes, such as the X and Y chromosomes of mammals or the Z and W chromosomes of birds, evolved from ordinary autosomes, primarily through the degeneration of the sex-specific Y or W chromosome. At the same time, the sex chromosomes shared between sexes, the X and Z chromosomes, are expected to remain essentially untouched. This model was based on limited cytogenetic and genetic data. Only in the last decade, with the advent of genomics, has the complete sequence of any sex chromosome pair become available. High-quality finished sequences of the human and chimpanzee Y chromosomes, as well as the human X chromosome, have revealed sequence features unanticipated by the traditional model of sex chromosome evolution. Large, highly identical, tandem and inverted arrays of testis-expressed genes are major sources of innovation in gene content on sex-specific chromosomes as well as sex-shared chromosomes. Accounting for the emergence of these ampliconic structures presents a challenge for future studies of sex chromosome evolution.

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