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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Dec 19;372(1736). pii: 20160456. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0456.

Evolution of recombination rates between sex chromosomes.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, Ashworth Laboratory, University of Edinburgh, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3FL, UK


In species with genetic sex-determination, the chromosomes carrying the sex-determining genes have often evolved non-recombining regions and subsequently evolved the full set of characteristics denoted by the term 'sex chromosomes'. These include size differences, creating chromosomal heteromorphism, and loss of gene functions from one member of the chromosome pair. Such characteristics and changes have been widely reviewed, and underlie molecular genetic approaches that can detect sex chromosome regions. This review deals mainly with the evolution of new non-recombining regions, focusing on how certain evolutionary situations select for suppressed recombination (rather than the proximate mechanisms causing suppressed recombination between sex chromosomes). Particularly important is the likely involvement of sexually antagonistic polymorphisms in genome regions closely linked to sex-determining loci. These may be responsible for the evolutionary strata of sex chromosomes that have repeatedly formed by recombination suppression evolving across large genome regions. More studies of recently evolved non-recombining sex-determining regions should help to test this hypothesis empirically, and may provide evidence about whether other situations can sometimes lead to sex-linked regions evolving. Similarities with other non-recombining genome regions are discussed briefly, to illustrate common features of the different cases, though no general properties apply to all of them.This article is part of the themed issue 'Evolutionary causes and consequences of recombination rate variation in sexual organisms'.


Poecilia reticulata; inversion; pseudo-autosomal region; sexual antagonism; stickleback; translocation

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