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Chromosome Res. 2012 Feb;20(2):259-68. doi: 10.1007/s10577-011-9261-0. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Multiple independent evolutionary losses of XY pairing at meiosis in the grey voles.

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Institute of Cytology and Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberian Department, Novosibirsk 630090, Russia,


In many eutherian mammals, X-Y chromosome pairing and recombination is required for meiotic progression and correct sex chromosome disjunction. Arvicoline rodents present a notable exception to this meiotic rule, with multiple species possessing asynaptic sex chromosomes. Most asynaptic vole species belong to the genus Microtus sensu lato. However, many of the species both inside and outside the genus Microtus display normal X-Y synapsis at meiosis. These observations suggest that the synaptic condition was present in the common ancestor of all voles, but gaps in current taxonomic sampling across the arvicoline phylogeny prevent identification of the lineage(s) along which the asynaptic state arose. In this study, we use electron and immunofluorescent microscopy to assess heterogametic sex chromosome pairing in 12 additional arvicoline species. Our sample includes ten species of the tribe Microtini and two species of the tribe Lagurini. This increased breadth of sampling allowed us to identify asynaptic species in each major Microtine lineage. Evidently, the ability of the sex chromosomes to pair and recombine in male meiosis has been independently lost at least three times during the evolution of Microtine rodents. These results suggest a lack of evolutionary constraint on X-Y synapsis in Microtini, hinting at the presence of alternative molecular mechanisms for sex chromosome segregation in this large mammalian tribe.

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