Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Selection is expected to work differently in autosomal and X-linked genes because of their ploidy difference and the exposure of recessive X-linked mutations to haploid selection in males. However, it is not clear whether these expectations apply to recently evolved sex chromosomes, where many genes retain functional X- and Y-linked gametologs. We took advantage of the recently evolved sex chromosomes in the plant Silene latifolia and its closely related species to compare the selective pressures between hemizygous and non-hemizygous X-linked genes as well as between X-linked genes and autosomal genes. Our analysis, based on over 1000 genes, demonstrated that, similar to animals, X-linked genes in Silene evolve significantly faster than autosomal genes—the so-called faster-X effect. Contrary to expectations, faster-X divergence was detectable only for non-hemizygous X-linked genes. Our phylogeny-based analyses of selection revealed no evidence for faster adaptation in X-linked genes compared to autosomal genes. On the other hand, partial relaxation of purifying selection was apparent on the X-chromosome compared to the autosomes, consistent with a smaller genetic diversity in S. latifolia X-linked genes (πx = 0.016; πaut = 0.023). Thus, the faster-X divergence in S. latifolia appears to be a consequence of the smaller effective population size rather than of a faster adaptive evolution on the X-chromosome. We argue that this may be a general feature of “young” sex chromosomes, where the majority of X-linked genes are not hemizygous, preventing haploid selection in heterogametic sex.

Original publication




Journal article


Genes (Basel)

Publication Date





X-chromosome, faster-X effect, population size, positive selection, purifying selection