The date palm tree is a commercially important member of the genus Phoenix whose 14 species are dioecious with separate male and female individuals. To identify sex determining genes we sequenced the genomes of 15 female and 13 male Phoenix trees representing all 14 species. We identified male-specific sequences and extended them using phased single-molecule sequencing or BAC clones. We observed that only four genes contained sequences conserved in all analyzed Phoenix males. Most of these sequences showed similarity to a single genomic locus in the closely related monoecious oil palm. CYP703 and GPAT3, two single copy genes present in males and critical for male flower development in other monocots, were absent in females. A LOG-like gene appears translocated into the Y-linked region and is suggested to play a role in suppressing female flowers. Our data are consistent with a two-mutation model for the evolution of dioecy in Phoenix.
Journal: Nature communications