Comparative analysis of a plant pseudoautosomal region (PAR) in Silene latifolia with the corresponding S-vulgaris autosome
Background: The sex chromosomes of Silene latifolia are heteromorphic as in mammals, with females being homogametic (XX) and males heterogametic (XY). While recombination occurs along the entire X chromosome in females, recombination between the X and Y chromosomes in males is restricted to the pseudoautosomal region (PAR). In the few mammals so far studied, PARs are often characterized by elevated recombination and mutation rates and high GC content compared with the rest of the genome. However, PARs have not been studied in plants until now. In this paper we report the construction of a BAC library for S. latifolia and the first analysis of a > 100 kb fragment of a S. latifolia PAR that we compare to the homologous autosomal region in the closely related gynodioecious species S. vulgaris. Results: Six new sex-linked genes were identified in the S. latifolia PAR, together with numerous transposable elements. The same genes were found on the S. vulgaris autosomal segment, with no enlargement of the predicted coding sequences in S. latifolia. Intergenic regions were on average 1.6 times longer in S. latifolia than in S. vulgaris, mainly as a consequence of the insertion of transposable elements. The GC content did not differ significantly between the PAR region in S. latifolia and the corresponding autosomal region in S. vulgaris. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the usefulness of the BAC library developed here for the analysis of plant sex chromosomes and indicate that the PAR in the evolutionarily young S. latifolia sex chromosomes has diverged from the corresponding autosomal region in the gynodioecious S. vulgaris mainly with respect to the insertion of transposable elements. Gene order between the PAR and autosomal region investigated is conserved, and the PAR does not have the high GC content observed in evolutionarily much older mammalian sex chromosomes.