Genetic degeneration is an extraordinary feature of sex chromosomes, with loss of functions of Y-linked genes in species with XY systems, and W-linked genes in ZW systems, eventually affecting almost all genes. Although degeneration is familiar to most biologists, important aspects are not yet well understood, including how quickly a Y or W chromosome can become completely degenerated. I review current understanding of the time-course of degeneration. Degeneration starts after crossing over between the sex chromosome pair stops, and theoretical models predict an initially fast degeneration rate and a later much slower one. It has become possible to estimate the two quantities that the models suggest are the most important in determining degeneration rates — the size of the sex-linked region, and the time when recombination became suppressed (which can be estimated using Y-X or W-Z sequence divergence). However, quantifying degeneration is still difficult. I review evidence on gene losses (based on coverage analysis), or loss of function (by classifying coding sequences into functional alleles and pseudogenes). I also review evidence about whether small genome regions degenerate, or only large ones, whether selective constraints on the genes in a sex-linked region also strongly affect degeneration rates, and about how long it takes before all (or almost all) genes are lost.
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Early online date||12 Jul 2021|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Aug 2021|
- evolutionary strata
- chromosome fusion
- dosage compensation