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Trends Genet. 2018 Jul;34(7):492-503. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Apr 30.

Why Do Sex Chromosomes Stop Recombining?

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Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
Department of Biology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. Electronic address:


It is commonly assumed that sex chromosomes evolve recombination suppression because selection favours linkage between sex-determining and sexually antagonistic genes. However, although the role of sexual antagonism during sex chromosome evolution has attained strong support from theory, experimental and observational evidence is rare or equivocal. Here, we highlight alternative, often neglected, hypotheses for recombination suppression on sex chromosomes, which invoke meiotic drive, heterozygote advantage, and genetic drift, respectively. We contrast the hypotheses, the situations when they are likely to be of importance, and outline why it is surprisingly difficult to test them. Lastly, we discuss future research directions (including modelling, population genomics, comparative approaches, and experiments) to disentangle the different hypotheses of sex chromosome evolution.


heterozygote advantage; meiotic drive; recombination suppression; sex chromosome; sex determination; sexual antagonism

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