The sex-specific region of sex chromosomes in animals and plants

Andrea R. Gschwend, Laura A. Weingartner, Richard C. Moore, Ray Ming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our understanding of the evolution of sex chromosomes has increased greatly in recent years due to a number of molecular evolutionary investigations in divergent sex chromosome systems, and these findings are reshaping theories of sex chromosome evolution. In particular, the dynamics of the sex-determining region (SDR) have been demonstrated by recent findings in ancient and incipient sex chromosomes. Radical changes in genomic structure and gene content in the male specific region of the Y chromosome between human and chimpanzee indicated rapid evolution in the past 6 million years, defying the notion that the pace of evolution in the SDR was fast at early stages but slowed down overtime. The chicken Z and the human X chromosomes appeared to have acquired testis-expressed genes and expanded in intergenic regions. Transposable elements greatly contributed to SDR expansion and aided the trafficking of genes in the SDR and its X or Z counterpart through retrotransposition. Dosage compensation is not a destined consequence of sex chromosomes as once thought. Most X-linked microRNA genes escape silencing and are expressed in testis. Collectively, these findings are challenging many of our preconceived ideas of the evolutionary trajectory and fates of sex chromosomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalChromosome Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Dosage compensation
  • gene trafficking
  • microRNA
  • sex chromosome evolution
  • transposable elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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