Recurrent allopolyploidization, Y-chromosome introgression and the evolution of sexual systems in the plant genus Mercurialis

J. F. Gerchen, P. Veltsos, J. R. Pannell

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The plant genus Mercurialis includes dioecious, monoecious and androdioecious species (where males coexist with hermaphrodites). Its diversification involved reticulate evolution via hybridization and polyploidization. The Y chromosome of the diploid species Mercurialis annua shows only mild signs of degeneration. We used sequence variation at a Y-linked locus in several species and at multiple autosomal and pseudoautosomal loci to investigate the origin and evolution of the Y chromosome across the genus. Our study provides evidence for further cases of allopolyploid speciation. It also reveals that all lineages with separate sexes (with one possible exception) share the same ancestral Y chromosome. Surprisingly, males in androdioecious populations of hexaploid M. annua carry a Y chromosome that is not derived from either of its two putative progenitor lineages but from a more distantly related perennial dioecious lineage via introgression. These results throw new light on the evolution of sexual systems and polyploidy in Mercurialis and secure it as a promising model for further study of plant sex chromosomes. This article is part of the theme issue 'Sex determination and sex chromosome evolution in land plants'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210224
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1850
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant nos. 31003A_163384 and 310030_185196) and the University of Lausanne. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:

Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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