An investigation of Y chromosome incorporations in 400 species of <i>Drosophila</i> and related genera

by Eduardo G. Dupim, Gabriel Goldstein, Thyago Vanderlinde, Suzana C. Vaz, Flávia Krsticevic, Aline Bastos, Thadeo Pinhão, Marcos Torres, Jean R. David, Carlos R. Vilela, Antonio Bernardo Carvalho

Y chromosomes are widely believed to evolve from a normal autosome through a process of massive gene loss (with preservation of some male genes), shaped by sex-antagonistic selection and complemented by occasional gains of male-related genes. The net result of these processes is a male-specialized chromosome. This might be expected to be an irreversible process, but it was found in 2005 that the Drosophila pseudoobscura Y chromosome was incorporated into an autosome. Y chromosome incorporations have important consequences: a formerly male-restricted chromosome reverts to autosomal inheritance, and the species may shift from an XY/XX to X0/XX sex-chromosome system. In order to assess the frequency and causes of this phenomenon we searched for Y chromosome incorporations in 400 species from Drosophila and related genera. We found one additional large scale event of Y chromosome incorporation, affecting the whole montium subgroup (40 species in our sample); overall 13% of the sampled species (52/400) have Y incorporations. While previous data indicated that after the Y incorporation the ancestral Y disappeared as a free chromosome, the much larger data set analyzed here indicates that a copy of the Y survived as a free chromosome both in montium and pseudoobscura species, and that the current Y of the pseudoobscura lineage results from a fusion between this free Y and the neoY. The 400 species sample also showed that the previously suggested causal connection between X-autosome fusions and Y incorporations is, at best, weak: the new case of Y incorporation (montium) does not have X-autosome fusion, whereas nine independent cases of X-autosome fusions were not followed by Y incorporations. Y incorporation is an underappreciated mechanism affecting Y chromosome evolution; our results show that at least in Drosophila it plays a relevant role and highlight the need of similar studies in other groups.

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