X and Y chromosomes locked in evolutionary battle of the sexes

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New DNA sequencing data reinforce the notion that the X and Y chromosomes, which determine biological sex in mammals, are locked in an evolutionary battle for supremacy.

David Page, a biologist who directs the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues explored the Y chromosomes carried by males of several species, mapping stretches of mysterious, repetitive DNA in unprecedented detail. These stretches may signal a longstanding clash of the chromosomes.

“This idea of conflict between the chromosomes has been around for a while,” says Tony Gamble, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. But the sequencing data from the bull’s Y chromosome suggests that the phenomenon is more widespread than previously thought, he adds.

The mammalian Y chromosome has long been thought of as a sort of genomic wasteland, usually shrinking over the course of evolution and largely bereft of pertinent information. Page’s work has helped to change perceptions of the Y chromosome by revealing that it contains remarkable patterns of repeating sequences that appear dozens to hundreds of times.

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Page argues that his findings are evidence that the genes are involved in meiotic drive, a somewhat mysterious biological process that subverts the standard rules of heredity. In it, a particular version of a gene — or in this case, an entire chromosome — manages to increase the frequency by which it is transmitted to the next generation.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: A Battle of the Sexes is Waged in the Genes of Humans, Bulls and More

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