Selective maintenance of recombination between the sex chromosomes

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Abstract

A hallmark of many sex chromosomes is the dramatically reduced rate of recombination between them in the heterogametic sex (e.g. between the X and Y). Sexually antagonistic selection is thought to be the main selective driver of this reduced recombination, with tighter linkage strengthening the association between alleles favourable to females and the X, as well as alleles favourable to males and the Y. Nevertheless, many sex chromosomes retain substantial levels of recombination over millions of years, and some old sex chromosomes remain homomorphic with few signs of recombination suppression and the chromosomal degradation expected to follow. This paper explores the selective factors that can maintain recombination between the sex chromosomes. Specifically, by analysing the dynamics of genes that modify the rate of recombination, I present results demonstrating that certain forms of selection – all involving overdominance in males – can positively maintain recombination in the pseudo-autosomal region. To understand these cases, one has to revise our standard view of sexual antagonistic selection as involving two partners (males and females) to three partners (the X in females, the X in males and the Y).

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