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A 180 Myr-old female-specific genome region in sturgeon reveals the oldest known vertebrate sex determining system with undifferentiated sex chromosomes

Abstract : Several hypotheses explain the prevalence of undifferentiated sex chromosomes in poikilothermic vertebrates. Turnovers change the master sex determination gene, the sex chromosome or the sex determination system (e.g. XY to WZ). Jumping master genes stay main triggers but translocate to other chromosomes. Occasional recombination (e.g. in sex-reversed females) prevents sex chromosome degeneration. Recent research has uncovered conserved heteromorphic or even homomorphic sex chromosomes in several clades of non-avian and non-mammalian vertebrates. Sex determination in sturgeons (Acipenseridae) has been a long-standing basic biological question, linked to economical demands by the caviar-producing aquaculture. Here, we report the discovery of a sex-specific sequence from sterlet ( Acipenser ruthenus ). Using chromosome-scale assemblies and pool-sequencing, we first identified an approximately 16 kb female-specific region. We developed a PCR-genotyping test, yielding female-specific products in six species, spanning the entire phylogeny with the most divergent extant lineages ( A. sturio, A. oxyrinchus versus A. ruthenus, Huso huso ), stemming from an ancient tetraploidization. Similar results were obtained in two octoploid species ( A. gueldenstaedtii, A. baerii ). Conservation of a female-specific sequence for a long period, representing 180 Myr of sturgeon evolution, and across at least one polyploidization event, raises many interesting biological questions. We discuss a conserved undifferentiated sex chromosome system with a ZZ/ZW-mode of sex determination and potential alternatives. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Challenging the paradigm in sex chromosome evolution: empirical and theoretical insights with a focus on vertebrates (Part I)’.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03329961
Contributor : Yann Guiguen <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, August 31, 2021 - 2:01:49 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - 3:55:28 AM

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Heiner Kuhl, Yann Guiguen, Christin Höhne, Eva Kreuz, Kang Du, et al.. A 180 Myr-old female-specific genome region in sturgeon reveals the oldest known vertebrate sex determining system with undifferentiated sex chromosomes. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Royal Society, The, 2021, 376 (1832), pp.20200089. ⟨10.1098/rstb.2020.0089⟩. ⟨hal-03329961⟩

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