[Origin and evolution of mammalian sex chromosomes].

Unité d'immunogénétique humaine, Inserm E21, Institut Pasteur, 25, rue du Dr-Roux, 75724 Paris, France.
Comptes Rendus de l Académie des Sciences - Series III - Sciences de la Vie 02/2001; 324(1):1-11.
Source: PubMed


Mammals present an XX/XY system of chromosomal sex determination, males being the heterogametic sex. Comparative studies of the gene content of sex chromosomes from the major groups of mammals reveal that most Y genes have X-linked homologues and that X and Y share homologous pseudoautosomal regions. These observations, together with the presence of the two homologous regions (pseudoautosomal regions) at the tips of the sex chromosomes, suggest that these chromosomes began as an ordinary pair of homologous autosomes. Birds present a ZW/ZZ system of chromosomal sex determination where females are the heterogametic sex. In this case, avian sex chromosomes are derived from different pairs of autosomes than mammals. The evolutionary pathway from the autosomal homomorphic departure to the present-day heteromorphic sex chromosomes in mammals includes suppression of X-Y recombination, differentiation of the nascent non-recombining regions, and progressive autosomal addition and attrition of the sex chromosomes. Recent results indicate that the event marking the beginning of the differentiation between the extant X and Y chromosomes occurred about 300 million years ago.

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