American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

Symposium: “Sex differences in the recombination landscape”

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Jason M. Sardell and Mark Kirkpatrick (Feb 2020)

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Sex differences in overall recombination rates are well known, but little theoretical or empirical attention has been given to how and why sexes differ in their recombination landscapes: the patterns of recombination along chromosomes. In the first scientific review of this phenomenon, we find that recombination is biased towards telomeres in males and more uniformly distributed in females in most vertebrates and many other eukaryotes. Notable exceptions to this pattern exist, however. Fine scale recombination patterns also frequently differ between males and females. The molecular mechanisms responsible for sex-differences remain unclear, but chromatin landscapes play a role. Why these sex differences evolve also is unclear. Hypotheses suggest that they may result from sexually antagonistic selection acting on coding genes and their regulatory elements, meiotic drive in females, selection during the haploid phase of the life cycle, selection against aneuploidy, or mechanistic constraints. No single hypothesis, however, can adequately explain the evolution of sex differences in all cases. Sex-specific recombination landscapes have important consequences for population differentiation and sex chromosome evolution.