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Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Oct;107(4):305-14. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2011.11. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

Evidence of the accumulation of allele-specific non-synonymous substitutions in the young region of recombination suppression within the mating-type chromosomes of Neurospora tetrasperma.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden.


Currently, little is known about the origin and early evolution of sex chromosomes. This is largely due to the fact that ancient non-recombining sex chromosomes are highly degenerated, and thus provide little information about the early genomic events in their evolution. The Neurospora tetrasperma mating-type (mat) chromosomes contain a young (<6 Mya) and large region (>6.6 Mb) of suppressed recombination, thereby providing a model system to study early stages of sex chromosome evolution. Here, we examined alleles of 207 genes located on the N. tetrasperma mat a and mat A chromosomes to test for signs of genomic alterations at the protein level in the young region of recombination suppression. We report that the N. tetrasperma mat a and mat A chromosomes have each independently accumulated allele-specific non-synonymous codon substitutions in a time-dependent, and gene-specific manner in the recombinationally suppressed region. In addition, examination of the ratio (ω) of non-synonymous substitutions (dN) to synonymous substitutions (dS) using maximum likelihood analyses, indicates that such changes are associated with relaxed purifying selection, a finding consistent with genomic degeneration. We also reveal that sex specific biases in mutation rates or selection pressures are not necessary for genomic alterations in sex chromosomes, and that recombination suppression in itself is sufficient to explain these results. The present findings extend our current understanding of genomic events associated within the young region of recombination suppression in these fungal sex-regulating chromosomes.

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