Evolution of sex chromosomes in insects

Vera B Kaiser, Doris Bachtrog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sex chromosomes have many unusual features relative to autosomes. Y (or W) chromosomes lack genetic recombination, are male- (female-) limited, and show an abundance of genetically inert heterochromatic DNA but contain few functional genes. X (or Z) chromosomes also show sex-biased transmission (i.e., X chromosomes show female-biased and Z-chromosomes show male-biased inheritance) and are hemizygous in the heterogametic sex. Their unusual ploidy level and pattern of inheritance imply that sex chromosomes play a unique role in many biological processes and phenomena, including sex determination, epigenetic chromosome-wide regulation of gene expression, the distribution of genes in the genome, genomic conflict, local adaptation, and speciation. The vast diversity of sex chromosome systems in insects--ranging from the classical male heterogametic XY system in Drosophila to ZW systems in Lepidoptera or mobile genes determining sex as found in house flies--implies that insects can serve as unique model systems to study various functional and evolutionary aspects of these different processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-112
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual review of genetics
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Insects
  • Male
  • Sex Chromosomes


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