Y Chromosome Evolution


The evolution of the Y chromosomes of different taxa (humans, plants and Drosophila) is considered as well as the degeneration processes that affected the autosomal ancestor (proto‐Y chromosome). The acquisition of testis‐expressed genes and their amplifications on the Y chromosome are discussed. In spite of the differences and the specificity of evolutionary forces driving their diversification, the molecular studies of the Y chromosomal structures reveal some unexpected similarities in different evolutionary lineages.

Keywords: Y chromosome; degenerate genes; ampliconic sequences; heterochromatin; loss of recombination

Figure 1.

Simplified scheme of the human Y chromosome structure, according to the results of sequencing (Skaletsky et al., ). PAR, pseudoautosomal regions; Cen, centromere; Yp and Yq, left and right arms, respectively; intermingled ampliconic and X‐degenerate regions are shown; AZF, location of azoospermia factor, containing amplified genes; SRY, sex chromosome‐determining region.



Bachtrog D (2006) A dynamic view of sex chromosome evolution. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 16: 578–585.

Carvalho AB (2002) Origin and evolution of the Drosophila. Y Chromosome 12: 664–668.

Charlesworth B and Charlesworth D (2000) The degeneration of Y chromosome. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B 355: 1563–1572.

Fraser JA and Heitman J (2005) Chromosomal sex‐determining regions in animals, plants and fungi. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 15: 645–651.

Graves JAM (2006) Sex chromosome specialization and degeneration in mammals. Cell 124: 901–914.

Gvozdev VA, Kogan GL and Usakin LA (2005) The Y chromosome as a target for acquired and amplified genetic material in evolution. BioEssays 27: 1256–1262.

Jobling MA and Tyler‐Smith C (2003) The human Y chromosome and evolutionary marker comes of age. Nature Reviews Genetics 4: 598–612.

Rice WR (1996) Evolution of the Y sex chromosome in animals. BioScience 46: 331–343.

Rozen S, Skaletsky H, Marszalek JD et al. (2003) Abundant gene conversion between arms of palindromes in human and ape Y chromosomes. Nature 423: 873–876.

Skaletsky H, Kugoda‐Kawaguchi T, Minx PJ et al. (2003) The male‐specific region of the human Y chromosome is a mosaic of discrete sequence classes. Nature 423: 825–837.

Steinemann S and Steinemann M (2005) Y chromosomes: born to be destroyed. BioEssays 27: 1076–1083.

Further Reading

Bachtrog D (2006) Expression profile of a degenerating neo‐Y chromosome in Drosophila. Current Biology 16: 1694–1699.

Carvalho AB and Clark AG (2005) Y chromosome of D. pseudoobscura is not homologous to the ancestral Drosophila. Science 307: 108–110.

Fraser JA, Dietzmann S, Subaran RL et al. (2004) Convergent evolution of chromosomal sex‐determining regions in the animal and fungal kingdoms. PLoS Biology 2: e384.

Graves JAM, Koina E and Sankovich N (2006) How the gene content of human sex chromosome evolved. Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 16: 219–224.

Grutzner F, Rens W, Tsend‐Ayush E et al. (2004) In the platypus a meiotic chain of ten sex chromosomes shares genes with the bird Z and mammal X chromosomes. Nature 432: 913–917.

Hughes JF, Skaletsky H, Pyntykova T et al. (2005) Conservation of Y‐linked genes during human evolution revealed by comparative sequences in chimpanzee. Nature 437: 100–103.

Kondo M, Hornung U, Nanda I et al. (2006) Genomic organization of the sex‐determining and adjacent regions of the sex chromosome of medaka. Genome Research 16: 815–826.

Marais G and Charlsworth B (2003) Genome evolution: recombination speeds up adaptive evolution. Current Biology 13: R68–R70.

Ming R and Moore PH (2007) Genomics of sex chromosomes. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 10: 123–130.

Nicolas M, Marais G, Hykelova V et al. (2005) A gradual process of recombination restriction in the evolutionary history of the sex chromosomes in dioecious plant. PLoS Biology 3: e4.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Gvozdev, Vladimir A(Mar 2008) Y Chromosome Evolution. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020740]