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Vol. 122, No. 2, 2008
Issue release date: December 2008
Cytogenet Genome Res 122:150–156 (2008)

Synteny conservation of the Z chromosome in 14 avian species (11 families) supports a role for Z dosage in avian sex determination

Nanda I. · Schlegelmilch K. · Haaf T. · Schartl M. · Schmid M.
Institutes of aHuman Genetics and bPhysiological Chemistry I, University of Würzburg, Würzburg; cInstitute of Human Genetics, University of Mainz, Mainz (Germany)

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In order to determine synteny conservation of the avian Z chromosome, a chicken (Gallus gallus, GGA) Z chromosome painting probe was hybridized to the chromosomes of 14 bird species belonging to 11 different families. The GGAZ painted the Z chromosomes in all species analyzed, suggesting strong conservation of its gene content among the different avian lineages. This was confirmed by the mapping of five GGAZ-orthologous genes (DMRT1, GHR, CHRNB3, ALDOB, B4GALT1) to the Z chromosomes of eight other species. The shuffled order of these genes on different Z chromosomes can be explained by the prevalence of intrachromosomal rearrangements during avian evolution. Synteny conservation of the mammalian X is generally thought to be the result of X chromosome inactivation. The absence of Z chromosome inactivation implies sex-specific dosage differences of a highly conserved array of Z-linked genes in birds. The evolutionary conservation of the entire Z chromosome among avian lineages supports the idea that avian sex determination and/or sex-specific functions are largely based on sex chromosome dosage. We propose that the accumulation of male-specific genes on the Z chromosome confers selective pressure on the Z to conserve its synteny.

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