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The action of natural selection is expected to reduce the effective population size of a nonrecombining chromosome, and this is thought to be the chief factor leading to genetic degeneration of Y-chromosomes, which cease recombining during their evolution from ordinary chromosomes. Low effective population size of Y chromosomes can be tested by studying DNA sequence diversity of Y-linked genes. In the dioecious plant, Silene latifolia, which has sex chromosomes, one comparison (SlX1 vs. SlY1) indeed finds lower Y diversity compared with the homologous X-linked gene, and one Y-linked gene with no X-linked homologue has lower species-wide diversity than a homologous autosomal copy (SlAp3Y vs. SlAp3A). To test whether this is a general pattern for Y-linked genes, we studied two further recently described X and Y homologous gene pairs in samples from several populations of S. latifolia and S. dioica. Diversity is reduced for both Y-linked genes, compared with their X-linked homologues. Our new data are analysed to show that the low Y effective size cannot be explained by different levels of gene flow for the X vs. the Y chromosomes, either between populations or between these closely related species. Thus, all four Y-linked genes that have now been studied in these plants (the two studied here, and two previously studied genes, have low diversity). This supports other evidence for an ongoing degeneration process in these species.

Original publication




Journal article


J Evol Biol

Publication Date





337 - 347


Cluster Analysis, DNA Primers, Evolution, Molecular, Gene Components, Genes, Plant, Genetic Variation, Linkage Disequilibrium, Models, Genetic, Phylogeny, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Silene, Y Chromosome