Y chromosomes control essential male functions in many species, including sex determination and fertility. However, because of obstacles posed by repeat-rich heterochromatin, knowledge of Y chromosome sequences is limited to a handful of model organisms, constraining our understanding of Y biology across the tree of life. Here, we leverage long single-molecule sequencing to determine the content and structure of the nonrecombining Y chromosome of the primary African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae We find that the An. gambiae Y consists almost entirely of a few massively amplified, tandemly arrayed repeats, some of which can recombine with similar repeats on the X chromosome. Sex-specific genome resequencing in a recent species radiation, the An. gambiae complex, revealed rapid sequence turnover within An. gambiae and among species. Exploiting 52 sex-specific An. gambiae RNA-Seq datasets representing all developmental stages, we identified a small repertoire of Y-linked genes that lack X gametologs and are not Y-linked in any other species except An. gambiae, with the notable exception of YG2, a candidate male-determining gene. YG2 is the only gene conserved and exclusive to the Y in all species examined, yet sequence similarity to YG2 is not detectable in the genome of a more distant mosquito relative, suggesting rapid evolution of Y chromosome genes in this highly dynamic genus of malaria vectors. The extensive characterization of the An. gambiae Y provides a long-awaited foundation for studying male mosquito biology, and will inform novel mosquito control strategies based on the manipulation of Y chromosomes.
Keywords: Anopheles gambiae; PacBio; RNA-Seq; Y-chromosome; tandem repetitive DNA.