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Genetics. 2007 Sep;177(1):607-13. Epub 2007 Jul 29.

Bird and mammal sex-chromosome orthologs map to the same autosomal region in a salamander (ambystoma).

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  • 1Department of Biology and Spinal Cord and Brian Injury Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, USA. jjsmit3@uky.edu


We tested hypotheses concerning the origin of bird and mammal sex chromosomes by mapping the location of amniote sex-chromosome loci in a salamander amphibian (Ambystoma). We found that ambystomatid orthologs of human X and chicken Z sex chromosomes map to neighboring regions of a common Ambystoma linkage group 2 (ALG2). We show statistically that the proportion of human X and chicken Z orthologs observed on ALG2 is significantly different from the proportion that would be expected by chance. We further show that conserved syntenies between ALG2 and amniote chromosomes are identified as overlapping conserved syntenies when all available chicken (N = 3120) and human (N = 14,922) RefSeq orthologs are reciprocally compared. In particular, the data suggest that chromosomal regions from chicken chromosomes (GGA) Z and 4 and from human chromosomes (HSA) 9, 4, X, 5, and 8 were linked ancestrally. A more distant outgroup comparison with the pufferfish Tetraodon nigroviridis reveals ALG2/GGAZ/HSAX syntenies among three pairs of ancestral chromosome duplicates. Overall, our results suggest that sex chromosomal regions of birds and mammals were recruited from a common ancestral chromosome, and thus our findings conflict with the currently accepted hypothesis of separate autosomal origins. We note that our results were obtained using the most immediate outgroup to the amniote clade (mammals, birds, and other reptiles) while the currently accepted hypothesis is primarily based upon conserved syntenies between in-group taxa (birds and mammals). Our study illustrates the importance of an amphibian outgroup perspective in identifying ancestral amniote gene orders and in reconstructing patterns of vertebrate sex-chromosome evolution.

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