The Y chromosome is a unique genetic environment defined by a lack of recombination and male-limited inheritance. The Drosophila Y chromosome has been gradually acquiring genes from the rest of the genome, with only seven Y-linked genes being gained over the past 63 million years (0.12 gene gains per million years). Using a next-generation sequencing (NGS)-powered genomic scan, we show that gene transfers to the Y chromosome are much more common than previously suspected: at least 25 have arisen across three Drosophila species over the past 5.4 million years (1.67 per million years for each lineage). The gene transfer rate is significantly lower in Drosophila melanogaster than in the Drosophila simulans clade, primarily due to Y-linked retrotranspositions being significantly more common in the latter. Despite all Y-linked gene transfers being evolutionarily recent (<1 million years old), only three showed evidence for purifying selection (ω ≤ 0.14). Thus, although the resulting Y-linked functional gene acquisition rate (0.25 new genes per million years) is double the longer-term estimate, the fate of most new Y-linked genes is defined by rapid degeneration and pseudogenization. Our results show that Y-linked gene traffic, and the molecular mechanisms governing these transfers, can diverge rapidly between species, revealing the Drosophila Y chromosome to be more dynamic than previously appreciated. Our analytical method provides a powerful means to identify Y-linked gene transfers and will help illuminate the evolutionary dynamics of the Y chromosome in Drosophila and other species.
Keywords: Drosophila; Y chromosome; evolution; retrocopies; transposition.
Copyright © 2017 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.