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Curr Biol. 2010 Oct 12;20(19):1687-96. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.08.014. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Genetics, chromatin diminution, and sex chromosome evolution in the parasitic nematode genus Strongyloides.

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  • 1Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 35, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.



When chromatin diminution occurs during a cell division a portion of the chromatin is eliminated, resulting in daughter cells with a smaller amount of genetic material. In the parasitic roundworms Ascaris and Parascaris, chromatin diminution creates a genetic difference between the soma and the germline. However, the function of chromatin diminution remains a mystery, because the vast majority of the eliminated DNA is noncoding. Within the parasitic roundworm genus Strongyloides, S. stercoralis (in man) and S. ratti (in rat) employ XX/XO sex determination, but the situation in S. papillosus (in sheep) is different but controversial.


We demonstrate genetically that S. papillosus employs sex-specific chromatin diminution to eliminate an internal portion of one of the two homologs of one chromosome pair in males. Contrary to ascarids, the eliminated DNA in S. papillosus contains a large number of genes. We demonstrate that the region undergoing diminution is homologous to the X chromosome of the closely related S. ratti. The flanking regions, which are not diminished, are homologous to the S. ratti autosome number I. Furthermore, we found that the diminished chromosome is not incorporated into sperm, resulting in a male-specific transmission ratio distortion.


Our data indicate that on the evolutionary path to S. papillosus, the X chromosome fused with an autosome. Chromatin diminution serves to functionally restore an XX/XO sex-determining system. A consequence of the fusion and the process that copes with it is a transmission ratio distortion in males for certain loci.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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