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, 65 (3), 249-76

The Evolution of Heteromorphic Sex Chromosomes


The Evolution of Heteromorphic Sex Chromosomes

E Jablonka et al. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc.


The facts and ideas which have been discussed lead to the following synthesis and model. 1. Heteromorphic sex chromosomes evolved from a pair of homomorphic chromosomes which had an allelic difference at the sex-determining locus. 2. The first step in the evolution of sex-chromosome heteromorphism involved either a conformational or a structural difference between the homologues. A structural difference could have arisen through a rearrangement such as an inversion or a translocation. A conformational difference could have occurred if the sex-determining locus was located in a chromosomal domain which behaved as a single control unit and involved a substantial segment of the chromosome. It is assumed that any conformational difference present in somatic cells would have been maintained in meiotic prophase. 3. Lack of conformational or structural homology between the sex chromosomes led to meiotic pairing failure. Since pairing failure reduced fertility, mechanisms preventing it had a selective advantage. Meiotic inactivation (heterochromatinization) of the differential region of the X chromosome in species with heterogametic males and euchromatinization of the W in species with heterogametic females are such mechanisms, and through them the pairing problems are avoided. 4. Structural and conformational differences between the sex chromosomes in the heterogametic sex reduced recombination. In heterogametic males recombination was reduced still further by the heterochromatinization of the X chromosome, which evolved in response to selection against meiotic pairing failure. 5. Suppression of recombination resulted in an increase in the mutation rate and an increased rate of fixation of deleterious mutations in the recombination-free chromosome regions. Functional degeneration of the genetically isolated regions of the Y and W was the result. In XY males this often led to further meiotic inactivation of the differential region of the X chromosome, and in this way an evolutionary positive-feedback loop may have been established. 6. Structural degeneration (loss of material) followed functional degeneration of Y or W chromosomes either because the functionally degenerate genes had deleterious effects which made their loss a selective advantage, or because shorter chromosomes were selectively neutral and became fixed by chance. 7. The evolutionary routes to sex-chromosome heteromorphism in groups with female heterogamety are more limited than in those with male heterogamety. Oocytes are usually large and long-lived, and are likely to need the products of X- or Z-linked genes. Meiotic inactivation of these chromosomes is therefore unlikely. In the oocytes of ZW females, meiotic pairing failure is avoided through euchromatinization of the W rather than heterochromatinization of the Z chromosome.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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