2006 Volume 81 Issue 4 Pages 219-226
Recent studies of plant sex chromosome-linked genes have revealed many interesting characteristics, although there are limited reports about heteromorphic sex chromosomes in flowering plants. Sex chromosome-linked genes in angiosperms have been characterized mainly in the dioecious plant Silene latifolia. Although all such genes were isolated from transcripts of male flower buds of S. latifolia, most seem to be housekeeping genes except for the petal- and stamen-specific MADS box gene on the Y chromosome (SlAP3Y) and the male reproductive organ-specific gene on the X chromosome (MROS3X). Recent evolutionary studies have revealed at least three evolutionary strata on the X chromosome that are related to stepwise loss of recombination between the sex chromosomes. Moreover, genetic maps showed conservation of gene organization on the X chromosome in the genus Silene and substantial pericentric inversion between the X and Y chromosomes of S. latifolia during evolution. A comparison between paralogs on the sex chromosomes revealed that introns of the Y-linked genes are longer than those of X-linked paralogs. Although analyses of sex chromosome-linked genes suggest that degeneration of the Y chromosome has occurred, the Y chromosome in flowering plants remains the largest in the male genome, unlike that of mammals. Accumulation of repetitive sequences and the entire chloroplast genome on the Y chromosome appear to have contributed to this large size. However, more detailed studies will be required to help explain the basis for the fact that heteromorphic sex chromosomes in angiosperms are large.