The African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) genome unites the two ancestral ingredients for making vertebrate sex chromosomes
Heteromorphic sex chromosomes have evolved repeatedly among vertebrate lineages despite largely deleterious reductions in gene dose. Understanding how this gene dose problem is overcome is hampered by the lack of genomic information at the base of tetrapods and comparisons across the evolutionary history of vertebrates. To address this problem, we produced a chromosome-level genome assembly for the African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)–an amphibian with heteromorphic ZW sex chromosomes–and discovered that the Bullfrog Z is surprisingly homologous to substantial portions of the human X. Using this new reference genome, we identified ancestral synteny among the sex chromosomes of major vertebrate lineages, showing that non-mammalian sex chromosomes are strongly associated with a single vertebrate ancestral chromosome, while mammals are associated with another that displays increased haploinsufficiency. The sex chromosomes of the African Bullfrog however, share genomic blocks with both humans and non-mammalian vertebrates, connecting the two ancestral chromosome sequences that repeatedly characterize vertebrate sex chromosomes. Our results highlight the consistency of sex-linked sequences despite sex determination system lability and reveal the repeated use of two major genomic sequence blocks during vertebrate sex chromosome evolution.