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Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Nov;28(11):2993-7. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr147. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Retroposon insertions and the chronology of avian sex chromosome evolution.

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  • 1Institute of Experimental Pathology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany. asuh@uni-muenster.de


The vast majority of extant birds possess highly differentiated Z and W sex chromosomes. Nucleotide sequence data from gametologs (homologs on opposite sex chromosomes) suggest that this divergence occurred throughout early bird evolution via stepwise cessation of recombination between identical sex chromosomal regions. Here, we investigated avian sex chromosome differentiation from a novel perspective, using retroposon insertions and random insertions/deletions for the reconstruction of gametologous gene trees. Our data confirm that the CHD1Z/CHD1W genes differentiated in the ancestor of the neognaths, whereas the NIPBLZ/NIPBLW genes diverged in the neoavian ancestor and independently within Galloanserae. The divergence of the ATP5A1Z/ATP5A1W genes in galloanserans occurred independently in the chicken, the screamer, and the ancestor of duck-related birds. In Neoaves, this gene pair differentiated in each of the six sampled representatives, respectively. Additionally, three of our investigated loci can be utilized as universal, easy-to-use independent tools for molecular sexing of Neoaves or Neognathae.

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