Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2000 Nov 29;355(1403):1563-72.

The degeneration of Y chromosomes.

Author information

  • 1Institute for Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Laboratories, UK.


Y chromosomes are genetically degenerate, having lost most of the active genes that were present in their ancestors. The causes of this degeneration have attracted much attention from evolutionary theorists. Four major theories are reviewed here: Muller's ratchet, background selection, the Hill Robertson effect with weak selection, and the 'hitchhiking' of deleterious alleles by favourable mutations. All of these involve a reduction in effective population size as a result of selective events occurring in a non-recombining genome, and the consequent weakening of the efficacy of selection. We review the consequences of these processes for patterns of molecular evolution and variation at loci on Y chromosomes, and discuss the results of empirical studies of these patterns for some evolving Y-chromosome and neo-Y-chromosome systems. These results suggest that the effective population sizes of evolving Y or neo-Y chromosomes are severely reduced, as expected if some or all of the hypothesized processes leading to degeneration are operative. It is, however, currently unclear which of the various processes is most important; some directions for future work to help to resolve this question are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center