A genetic basis for a postmeiotic X versus Y chromosome intragenomic conflict in the mouse

PLoS Genet. 2012 Sep;8(9):e1002900. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002900. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Intragenomic conflicts arise when a genetic element favours its own transmission to the detriment of others. Conflicts over sex chromosome transmission are expected to have influenced genome structure, gene regulation, and speciation. In the mouse, the existence of an intragenomic conflict between X- and Y-linked multicopy genes has long been suggested but never demonstrated. The Y-encoded multicopy gene Sly has been shown to have a predominant role in the epigenetic repression of post meiotic sex chromatin (PMSC) and, as such, represses X and Y genes, among which are its X-linked homologs Slx and Slxl1. Here, we produced mice that are deficient for both Sly and Slx/Slxl1 and observed that Slx/Slxl1 has an opposite role to that of Sly, in that it stimulates XY gene expression in spermatids. Slx/Slxl1 deficiency rescues the sperm differentiation defects and near sterility caused by Sly deficiency and vice versa. Slx/Slxl1 deficiency also causes a sex ratio distortion towards the production of male offspring that is corrected by Sly deficiency. All in all, our data show that Slx/Slxl1 and Sly have antagonistic effects during sperm differentiation and are involved in a postmeiotic intragenomic conflict that causes segregation distortion and male sterility. This is undoubtedly what drove the massive gene amplification on the mouse X and Y chromosomes. It may also be at the basis of cases of F1 male hybrid sterility where the balance between Slx/Slxl1 and Sly copy number, and therefore expression, is disrupted. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first demonstration of a competition occurring between X and Y related genes in mammals. It also provides a biological basis for the concept that intragenomic conflict is an important evolutionary force which impacts on gene expression, genome structure, and speciation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / deficiency
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics*
  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Animals
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Speciation
  • Infertility, Male
  • Male
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nuclear Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nuclear Proteins / deficiency
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Chromatin / genetics
  • Sex Chromatin / metabolism
  • Sex Ratio
  • Spermatids / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / growth & development
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • X Chromosome / genetics*
  • Y Chromosome / genetics*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proteins
  • SLY1 protein, mouse
  • Slx protein, mouse
  • Slx-like1 protein, mouse