Sex chromosome evolution results in the disparity in gene content between heterogametic sex chromosomes and creates the need for dosage compensation to counteract the effects of gene dose imbalance of sex chromosomes in males and females. It is not known at which stage of sex chromosome evolution dosage compensation would evolve. We used global gene expression profiling in male and female papayas to assess gene expression patterns of sex-linked genes on the papaya sex chromosomes. By analyzing expression ratios of sex-linked genes to autosomal genes and sex-linked genes in males relative to females, our results showed that dosage compensation was regulated on a gene-by-gene level rather than whole sex-linked region in papaya. Seven genes on the papaya X chromosome exhibited dosage compensation. We further compared gene expression ratios in the two evolutionary strata. Y alleles in the older evolutionary stratum showed reduced expression compared to X alleles, while Y alleles in the younger evolutionary stratum showed elevated expression compared to X alleles. Reduced expression of Y alleles in the older evolutionary stratum might be caused by accumulation of deleterious mutations in regulatory regions or transposable element-mediated methylation spreading. Most X-hemizygous genes exhibited either no or very low expression, suggesting that gene silencing might play a role in maintaining transcriptional balance between females and males.
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