Journal Article

Getting a Full Dose? Reconsidering Sex Chromosome Dosage Compensation in the Silkworm, <i>Bombyx mori</i>

James R. Walters and Thomas J. Hardcastle

in Genome Biology and Evolution

Published on behalf of Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution

Volume 3, issue , pages 491-504
Published in print January 2011 |
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1759-6653 | DOI:

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  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
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Dosage compensation—equalizing gene expression levels in response to differences in gene dose or copy number—is classically considered to play a critical role in the evolution of heteromorphic sex chromosomes. As the X and Y diverge through degradation and gene loss on the Y (or the W in female-heterogametic ZW taxa), it is expected that dosage compensation will evolve to correct for sex-specific differences in gene dose. Although this is observed in some organisms, recent genome-wide expression studies in other taxa have revealed striking exceptions. In particular, reports that both birds and the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori) lack dosage compensation have spurred speculation that this is the rule for all female-heterogametic taxa. Here, we revisit the issue of dosage compensation in silkworm by replicating and extending the previous analysis. Contrary to previous reports, our efforts reveal a pattern typically associated with dosage compensated taxa: the global male:female expression ratio does not differ between the Z and autosomes. We believe the previous report of unequal male:female ratios on the Z reflects artifacts of microarray normalization in conjunction with not testing a major assumption that the male:female global expression ratio was unbiased for autosomal loci. However, we also find that the global Z chromosome expression is significantly reduced relative to autosomes, a pattern not expected in dosage compensated taxa. This combination of male:female parity with an overall reduction in expression for sex-linked loci is not consistent with the prevailing evolutionary theory of sex chromosome evolution and dosage compensation.

Keywords: sex chromosomes; lepidoptera; microarray; female heterogamety

Journal Article.  8321 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ; Evolutionary Biology ; Genetics and Genomics

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