The dryas iulia genome supports multiple gains of a W chromosome from a B chromosome in butterflies

James J Lewis, Francesco Cicconardi, Simon H Martin, Robert D Reed, Charles G Danko, Stephen H Montgomery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In butterflies and moths, which exhibit highly variable sex determination mechanisms, the homogametic Z chromosome is deeply conserved and is featured in many genome assemblies. The evolution and origin of the female W sex chromosome, however, remains mostly unknown. Previous studies have proposed that a ZZ/Z0 sex determination system is ancestral to Lepidoptera, and that W chromosomes may originate from sex-linked B chromosomes. Here, we sequence and assemble the female Dryas iulia genome into 32 highly contiguous ordered and oriented chromosomes, including the Z and W sex chromosomes. We then use sex-specific Hi-C, ATAC-seq, PRO-seq, and whole genome DNA sequence datasets to test if features of the D. iulia W chromosome are consistent with a hypothesized B chromosome origin. We show that the putative W chromosome displays female-associated DNA sequence, gene expression, and chromatin accessibility to confirm the sex-linked function of the W sequence. In contrast with expectations from studies of homologous sex chromosomes, highly repetitive DNA content on the W chromosome, the sole presence of domesticated repetitive elements in functional DNA, and lack of sequence homology with the Z chromosome or autosomes is most consistent with a B chromosome origin for the W, although it remains challenging to rule out extensive sequence divergence. Synteny analysis of the D. iulia W chromosome with other female lepidopteran genome assemblies shows no homology between W chromosomes and suggests multiple, independent origins of the W chromosome from a B chromosome likely occurred in butterflies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberevab128
Number of pages13
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sex chromosome evolution
  • butterfly genome
  • B chromosome


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