The preservation of a homomorphic sex-determining chromosome in some organisms without transformation into a heteromorphic sex chromosome is a long-standing enigma in evolutionary biology. A dominant sex-determining locus (or M-locus) in an undifferentiated homomorphic chromosome confers the male phenotype in the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti. Genetic evidence suggests that the M-locus is in a nonrecombining region. However, the molecular nature of the M-locus has not been characterized. Using a recently developed approach based on Illumina sequencing of male and female genomic DNA, we identified a novel gene, myo-sex, that is present almost exclusively in the male genome but can sporadically be found in the female genome due to recombination. For simplicity, we define sequences that are primarily found in the male genome as male-biased. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) on A. aegypti chromosomes demonstrated that the myo-sex probe localized to region 1q21, the established location of the M-locus. Myo-sex is a duplicated myosin heavy chain gene that is highly expressed in the pupa and adult male. Myo-sex shares 83% nucleotide identity and 97% amino acid identity with its closest autosomal paralog, consistent with ancient duplication followed by strong purifying selection. Compared with males, myo-sex is expressed at very low levels in the females that acquired it, indicating that myo-sex may be sexually antagonistic. This study establishes a framework to discover male-biased sequences within a homomorphic sex-determining chromosome and offers new insights into the evolutionary forces that have impeded the expansion of the nonrecombining M-locus in A. aegypti.
Journal: Genome biology and evolution