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A small cluster of dioecious species in the plant genus Silene has evolved chromosomal sex determination and sex chromosomes relatively recently, within the last 10 million years (MY). Five dioecious Silene species (section Elisanthe) are very closely related (1-2 MY of divergence) and it was previously thought that all five have similar sex chromosomes. Here we demonstrate that in one of these species, Silene diclinis, the sex chromosomes have been significantly rearranged, resulting in the formation of neo-sex chromosomes. Fluorescence in situ hybridization with genic and repetitive probes revealed that in S. diclinis a reciprocal translocation has occurred between the ancestral Y chromosome and an autosome, resulting in chromosomes designated Y1 and Y2. Both Y1 and Y2 chromosomes are male specific. Y1 pairs with the X chromosome and with the autosome (the neo-X), which cosegregates with X. Y2 pairs only with the neo-X, forming a chain X-Y1-neo-X-Y2 in male meiosis. Despite very recent formation of the neo-sex chromosomes in S. diclinis, they are present in all surveyed individuals throughout the species range. Evolution of neo-sex chromosomes may be the cause of partial reproductive isolation of this species and could have been the isolating mechanism that drove speciation of S. diclinis.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1109 - 1115


Biological Evolution, Chromosomes, Plant, In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence, Sex Chromosomes, Silene