The Evolution of Widespread Recombination Suppression on the Dwarf Hamster (Phodopus) X Chromosome

Emily C. Moore, Gregg W.C. Thomas, Sebastian Mortimer, Emily E.K. Kopania, Kelsie E. Hunnicutt, Zachary J. Clare-Salzler, Erica L. Larson, Jeffrey M. Good

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The X chromosome of therian mammals shows strong conservation among distantly related species, limiting insights into the distinct selective processes that have shaped sex chromosome evolution. We constructed a chromosome-scale de novo genome assembly for the Siberian dwarf hamster (Phodopus sungorus), a species reported to show extensive recombination suppression across an entire arm of the X chromosome. Combining a physical genome assembly based on shotgun and longrange proximity ligation sequencing with a dense genetic map, we detected widespread suppression of female recombination across _65% of the Phodopus X chromosome. This region of suppressed recombination likely corresponds to the Xp arm, which has previously been shown to be highly heterochromatic. Using additional sequencing data from two closely related species (P. campbelli and P. roborovskii), we show that recombination suppression on Xp appears to be independent of major structural rearrangements. The suppressed Xp arm was enriched for several transposable element families and deenriched for genes primarily expressed in placenta, but otherwise showed similar gene densities, expression patterns, and rates of molecular evolution when compared to the recombinant Xq arm. Phodopus Xp gene content and order was also broadly conserved relative to the more distantly related rat X chromosome. These data suggest that widespread suppression of recombination has likely evolved through the transient induction of facultative heterochromatin on the Phodopus Xp arm without major changes in chromosome structure or genetic content. Thus, substantial changes in the recombination landscape have so far had relatively subtle influences on patterns of X-linked molecular evolution in these species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberevac080
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • faster-X evolution
  • sex chromosome evolution
  • sex-biased genes
  • transposable element accumulation


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