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PLoS Biol. 2014 Jul 1;12(7):e1001899. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001899. eCollection 2014 Jul.

Sex determination: why so many ways of doing it?

Author information

1
University of California, Berkeley, Department of Integrative Biology, Berkeley, California, United States of America.
2
University College London, Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, London, United Kingdom.
3
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Divisions of Human Biology and Basic Sciences, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.
4
University of Texas, Department of Integrative Biology, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
5
University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
6
University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
7
Indiana University, Department of Biology, Bloomington Indiana, United States of America.
8
National Institute of Genetics, Ecological Genetics Laboratory, Mishima, Shizuoka, Japan.
9
Tel Aviv University, Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, Tel Aviv, Israel.
10
University of Illinois, Department of Plant Biology, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, United States of America.
11
University of Lausanne, Department of Ecology and Evolution, Lausanne, Switzerland.
12
University of Oxford, Department of Zoology, Oxford, United Kingdom.
13
Iowa State University, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Ames, Iowa, United States of America.
14
University of Calgary, Department of Biological Sciences, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Abstract

Sexual reproduction is an ancient feature of life on earth, and the familiar X and Y chromosomes in humans and other model species have led to the impression that sex determination mechanisms are old and conserved. In fact, males and females are determined by diverse mechanisms that evolve rapidly in many taxa. Yet this diversity in primary sex-determining signals is coupled with conserved molecular pathways that trigger male or female development. Conflicting selection on different parts of the genome and on the two sexes may drive many of these transitions, but few systems with rapid turnover of sex determination mechanisms have been rigorously studied. Here we survey our current understanding of how and why sex determination evolves in animals and plants and identify important gaps in our knowledge that present exciting research opportunities to characterize the evolutionary forces and molecular pathways underlying the evolution of sex determination.

PMID:
24983465
PMCID:
PMC4077654
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pbio.1001899
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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