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The nonrecombining regions of animal Y chromosomes are known to undergo genetic degeneration, but previous work has failed to reveal large-scale gene degeneration on plant Y chromosomes. Here, we uncover rapid and extensive degeneration of Y-linked genes in a plant species, Silene latifolia, that evolved sex chromosomes de novo in the last 10 million years. Previous transcriptome-based studies of this species missed unexpressed, degenerate Y-linked genes. To identify sex-linked genes, regardless of their expression, we sequenced male and female genomes of S. latifolia and integrated the genomic contigs with a high-density genetic map. This revealed that 45% of Y-linked genes are not expressed, and 23% are interrupted by premature stop codons. This contrasts with X-linked genes, in which only 1.3% of genes contained stop codons and 4.3% of genes were not expressed in males. Loss of functional Y-linked genes is partly compensated for by gene-specific up-regulation of X-linked genes. Our results demonstrate that the rate of genetic degeneration of Y-linked genes in S. latifolia is as fast as in animals, and that the evolutionary trajectories of sex chromosomes are similar in the two kingdoms.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





13021 - 13026


Y degeneration, dosage compensation, gene expression, plants, sex chromosome evolution, Chromosomes, Plant, Dosage Compensation, Genetic, Genetic Linkage, Plants, Sex Chromosomes, Silene