Young sex chromosomes in plants and animals

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A major reason for studying plant sex chromosomes is that they may often be "young" systems. There is considerable evidence for the independent evolution of separate sexes within plant families or genera, in some cases showing that the maximum possible time during which their sex-determining genes have existed must be much shorter than those of several animal taxa. Consequently, their sex -linked regions could either have evolved soon after genetic sex determination arose, or considerably later. Plants therefore include species with both young and old systems. I review several questions about the evolution of sex-determining systems and sex chromosomes that require studies of young systems, including: the kinds of mutations involved in the transition to unisexual reproduction from hermaphroditism or monoecy (a form of functional hermaphroditism); the times when they arose; and the extent to which the properties of sex-linked regions of genomes reflect responses to new selective situations created by the presence of a sex-determining locus. I also evaluate which questions are best studied in plants, versus other suitable candidate organisms. Studies of young plant systems can help understand general evolutionary processes that are shared with the sex chromosomes of other organisms. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2019


  • flower development
  • gene duplications
  • sex chromosomes
  • sex linkage
  • turnover events
  • Y chromosomes


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