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Chromosome Res. 2009;17(5):687-97. doi: 10.1007/s10577-009-9056-8.

Avian sex chromosomes: dosage compensation matters.

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Institute of Cell Biology University of Edinburgh, West Mains Rd, Edinburgh EH9 3JR, UK.


In 2001 it was established that, contrary to our previous understanding, a mechanism exists that equalises the expression levels of Z chromosome genes found in male (ZZ) and female (ZW) birds (McQueen et al. 2001). More recent large scale studies have revealed that avian dosage compensation is not a chromosome-wide phenomenon and that the degree of dosage compensation can vary between genes (Itoh et al. 2007; Ellegren et al. 2007). Although, surprisingly, dosage compensation has recently been described as absent in birds (Mank and Ellegren 2009b), this interpretation is not supported by the accumulated evidence, which indicates that a significant proportion of Z chromosome genes show robust dosage compensation and that a particular cluster of such dosage compensated genes can be found on the short arm of the Z chromosome. The implications of this new picture of avian dosage compensation for avian sex determination are discussed, along with a possible mechanism of avian dosage compensation.

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