Mammalian Y chromosome evolution and the male-specific functions of Y chromosome-borne genes

in Reviews of Reproduction
Authors: ML Delbridge and JA Graves
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All mammals have an XY chromosomal sex determining system, in which a small Y chromosome triggers male development, and contains genes required for spermatogenesis. The X and Y chromosomes were originally homologous, but diverged during evolution as the Y chromosome was degraded progressively. Comparisons among the sex chromosomes of different mammal groups indicate that the X and Y chromosomes received additions of material from other chromosomes. Genes on the Y chromosome originated from the ancient X-Y pair, or from these additions, or were copies of genes on one of the autosomes. Only genes with important male-specific functions, such as sex determination and spermatogenesis, are selected for and retained on the differential region of the Y chromosome. The mammalian sex determining gene, SRY, controls the testis determination pathway, which includes at least one related gene. Several candidate spermatogenesis genes have been identified, but so far the only one that is conserved on the Y chromosome of all therian mammals is RBM (RNA-binding motif gene, Y chromosome).


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