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The Department of Entomology
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Radical remodeling of the Y chromosome in a recent radiation of malaria mosquitoes


Hall, A. B. ; Papathanos, P. A. ; Sharma, A. ; Cheng, C. ; Akbari, O. S. ; Assour, L. ; Bergman, N. H. ; Cagnetti, A. ; Crisanti, A. ; Dottorini, T. ; et al. Radical remodeling of the Y chromosome in a recent radiation of malaria mosquitoes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016, 113, E2114–E2123.


Interest in male mosquitoes has been motivated by the potential to develop novel vector control strategies, exploiting the fact that males do not feed on blood or transmit diseases, such as malaria. However, genetic studies of male Anopheles mosquitoes have been impeded by the lack of molecular characterization of the Y chromosome. Here we show that the Anopheles gambiae Y chromosome contains a very small repertoire of genes, with massively amplified tandem arrays of a small number of satellites and transposable elements constituting the vast majority of the sequence. These genes and repeats evolve rapidly, bringing about remodeling of the Y, even among closely related species. Our study provides a long-awaited foundation for studying mosquito Y chromosome biology and evolution.Y chromosomes control essential male functions in many species, including sex determination and fertility. However, because of obstacles posed by repeat-rich heterochromatin, knowledge of Y chromosome sequences is limited to a handful of model organisms, constraining our understanding of Y biology across the tree of life. Here, we leverage long single-molecule sequencing to determine the content and structure of the nonrecombining Y chromosome of the primary African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. We find that the An. gambiae Y consists almost entirely of a few massively amplified, tandemly arrayed repeats, some of which can recombine with similar repeats on the X chromosome. Sex-specific genome resequencing in a recent species radiation, the An. gambiae complex, revealed rapid sequence turnover within An. gambiae and among species. Exploiting 52 sex-specific An. gambiae RNA-Seq datasets representing all developmental stages, we identified a small repertoire of Y-linked genes that lack X gametologs and are not Y-linked in any other species except An. gambiae, with the notable exception of YG2, a candidate male-determining gene. YG2 is the only gene conserved and exclusive to the Y in all species examined, yet sequence similarity to YG2 is not detectable in the genome of a more distant mosquito relative, suggesting rapid evolution of Y chromosome genes in this highly dynamic genus of malaria vectors. The extensive characterization of the An. gambiae Y provides a long-awaited foundation for studying male mosquito biology, and will inform novel mosquito control strategies based on the manipulation of Y chromosomes.

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Last updated on 12/26/2019