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The population-genetic processes leading to the genetic degeneration of non-recombining regions have mainly been studied in animal and plant sex chromosomes. Here, we report population genetic analysis of the processes in the non-recombining mating-type-specific regions of the smut fungus Microbotryum violaceum. M. violaceum has A1 and A2 mating types, determined by mating-type-specific 'sex chromosomes' that contain 1-2 Mb long non-recombining regions. If genetic degeneration were occurring, then one would expect reduced DNA polymorphism in the non-recombining regions of this fungus. The analysis of DNA diversity among 19 M. violaceum strains, collected across Europe from Silene latifolia flowers, revealed that (i) DNA polymorphism is relatively low in all 20 studied loci (π∼0.15%), (ii) it is not significantly different between the two mating-type-specific chromosomes nor between the non-recombining and recombining regions, (iii) there is substantial population structure in M. violaceum populations, which resembles that of its host species, S. latifolia, and (iv) there is significant linkage disequilibrium, suggesting that widespread selfing in this species results in a reduction of the effective recombination rate across the genome. We hypothesise that selfing-related reduction of recombination across the M. violaceum genome negates the difference in the level of DNA polymorphism between the recombining and non-recombining regions, and may possibly lead to similar levels of genetic degeneration in the mating-type-specific regions of the non-recombining 'sex chromosomes' and elsewhere in the genome.

Original publication




Journal article


Heredity (Edinb)

Publication Date





936 - 944


Basidiomycota, Cluster Analysis, Genetic Loci, Genetics, Population, Linkage Disequilibrium, Phylogeny, Polymorphism, Genetic, Recombination, Genetic, Reproduction, Sex Chromosomes