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New Phytol. 2015 Oct;208(1):52-65. doi: 10.1111/nph.13497. Epub 2015 Jun 5.

Plant contributions to our understanding of sex chromosome evolution.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Lab, King's Buildings, W. Mains Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FL, UK.


A minority of angiosperms have male and female flowers separated in distinct individuals (dioecy), and most dioecious plants do not have cytologically different (heteromorphic) sex chromosomes. Plants nevertheless have several advantages for the study of sex chromosome evolution, as genetic sex determination has evolved repeatedly and is often absent in close relatives. I review sex-determining regions in non-model plant species, which may help us to understand when and how (and, potentially, test hypotheses about why) recombination suppression evolves within young sex chromosomes. I emphasize high-throughput sequencing approaches that are increasingly being applied to plants to test for non-recombining regions. These data are particularly illuminating when combined with sequence data that allow phylogenetic analyses, and estimates of when these regions evolved. Together with comparative genetic mapping, this has revealed that sex-determining loci and sex-linked regions evolved independently in many plant lineages, sometimes in closely related dioecious species, and often within the past few million years. In reviewing recent progress, I suggest areas for future work, such as the use of phylogenies to allow the informed choice of outgroup species suitable for inferring the directions of changes, including testing whether Y chromosome-like regions are undergoing genetic degeneration, a predicted consequence of losing recombination.


genetic degeneration; partial sex linkage; recombination suppression; sex chromosomes; sex determination

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