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The disproportionately large involvement of the X-chromosome in the isolation of closely related species (the large-X effect) has been reported for many animals, where X-linked genes are mostly hemizygous in the heterogametic sex. The expression of deleterious recessive mutations is thought to drive the frequent involvement of the X-chromosome in hybrid sterility, as well as to reduce interspecific gene flow for X-linked genes. Here, we evaluate the role of the X-chromosome in the speciation of two closely related plant species - the white and red campions (Silene latifolia and S. dioica) - that hybridize widely across Europe. The two species evolved separate sexes and sex chromosomes relatively recently (~10(7)  years), and unlike most animal species, most X-linked genes have intact Y-linked homologs. We demonstrate that the X-linked genes show a very small and insignificant amount of interspecific gene flow, while gene flow involving autosomal loci is significant and sufficient to homogenize the gene pools of the two species. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis of the large-X effect in Silene and comprise the first report of this effect in plants. Nonhemizygosity of many X-linked genes in Silene males indicates that exposure of recessive mutations to selection may not be essential for the occurrence of the large-X effect. Several possible causes of the large-X effect in Silene are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Ecol

Publication Date





2609 - 2619


Silene, gene flow, large-X effect, sex chromosomes, speciation, Chromosomes, Plant, Evolution, Molecular, Gene Flow, Gene Pool, Genes, Plant, Genes, X-Linked, Hybridization, Genetic, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, RNA, Plant, Sex Chromosomes, Silene