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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Dec;1822(12):1851-63. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2012.04.010. Epub 2012 Apr 20.

Sex, rebellion and decadence: the scandalous evolutionary history of the human Y chromosome.

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Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Rua da Quinta Grande 6, Oeiras, Portugal.


It can be argued that the Y chromosome brings some of the spirit of rock&roll to our genome. Equal parts degenerate and sex-driven, the Y has boldly rebelled against sexual recombination, one of the sacred pillars of evolution. In evolutionary terms this chromosome also seems to have adopted another of rock&roll's mottos: living fast. Yet, it appears to have refused to die young. In this manuscript the Y chromosome will be analyzed from the intersection between structural, evolutionary and functional biology. Such integrative approach will present the Y as a highly specialized product of a series of remarkable evolutionary processes. These led to the establishment of a sex-specific genomic niche that is maintained by a complex balance between selective pressure and the genetic diversity introduced by intrachromosomal recombination. Central to this equilibrium is the "polish or perish" dilemma faced by the male-specific Y genes: either they are polished by the acquisition of male-related functions or they perish via the accumulation of inactivating mutations. Thus, understanding to what extent the idiosyncrasies of Y recombination may impact this chromosome's role in sex determination and male germline functions should be regarded as essential for added clinical insight into several male infertility phenotypes. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Molecular Genetics of Human Reproductive Failure.

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