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The relatively recent origin of sex chromosomes in the plant genus Silene provides an opportunity to study the early stages of sex chromosome evolution and, potentially, to test between the different population genetic processes likely to operate in nonrecombining chromosomes such as Y chromosomes. We previously reported much lower nucleotide polymorphism in a Y-linked gene (SlY1) of the plant Silene latifolia than in the homologous X-linked gene (SlX1). Here, we report a more extensive study of nucleotide diversity in these sex-linked genes, including a larger S. latifolia sample and a sample from the closely related species Silene dioica, and we also study the diversity of an autosomal gene, CCLS37.1. We demonstrate that nucleotide diversity in the Y-linked genes of both S. latifolia and S. dioica is very low compared with that of the X-linked gene. However, the autosomal gene also has low DNA polymorphism, which may be due to a selective sweep. We use a single individual of the related hermaphrodite species Silene conica, as an outgroup to show that the low SlY1 diversity is not due to a lower mutation rate than that for the X-linked gene. We also investigate several other possibilities for the low SlY1 diversity, including differential gene flow between the two species for Y-linked, X-linked, and autosomal genes. The frequency spectrum of nucleotide polymorphism on the Y chromosome deviates significantly from that expected under a selective-sweep model. However, we detect population subdivision in both S. latifolia and S. dioica, so it is not simple to test for selective sweeps. We also discuss the possibility that Y-linked diversity is reduced due to highly variable male reproductive success, and we conclude that this explanation is unlikely.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Biol Evol

Publication Date





1442 - 1454


DNA, Plant, Genes, Plant, Genetic Variation, Models, Genetic, Mutation, Nuclear Proteins, Phylogeny, Plant Proteins, Plants, Polymorphism, Genetic, Recombination, Genetic, Reproduction, Selection, Genetic, Sequence Alignment, Species Specificity