New Insights into the Evolution of the W Chromosome in Lepidoptera

J Hered. 2017 Oct 30;108(7):709-719. doi: 10.1093/jhered/esx063.


Moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) represent the most diverse group of animals with heterogametic females. Although the vast majority of species has a WZ/ZZ (female/male) sex chromosome system, it is generally accepted that the ancestral system was Z/ZZ and the W chromosome has evolved in a common ancestor of Tischeriidae and Ditrysia. However, the lack of data on sex chromosomes in lower Lepidoptera has prevented a formal test of this hypothesis. Here, we performed a detailed analysis of sex chromosomes in Tischeria ekebladella (Tischeriidae) and 3 species representing lower Ditrysia, Cameraria ohridella (Gracillariidae), Plutella xylostella (Plutellidae), and Tineola bisselliella (Tineidae). Using comparative genomic hybridization we show that the first 3 species have well-differentiated W chromosomes, which vary considerably in their molecular composition, whereas T. bisselliella has no W chromosome. Furthermore, our results suggest the presence of neo-sex chromosomes in C. ohridella. For Z chromosomes, we selected 5 genes evenly distributed along the Z chromosome in ditrysian model species and tested their Z-linkage using qPCR. The tested genes (Henna, laminin A, Paramyosin, Tyrosine hydroxylase, and 6-Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase) proved to be Z-linked in all species examined. The conserved synteny of the Z chromosome across Tischeriidae and Ditrysia, along with the W chromosome absence in the lower ditrysian families Psychidae and Tineidae, suggests a possible independent origin of the W chromosomes in these 2 lineages.

Keywords: comparative genomic hybridization; laser microdissection; quantitative PCR; sex chromosome evolution; synteny mapping.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butterflies / genetics*
  • Chromosome Painting
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Male
  • Moths / genetics*
  • Sex Chromosomes / genetics*
  • Synteny*