Despite a well-documented history of dramatic genetic decay, the human Y chromosome has over the course of millions of years of evolution managed to preserve a small set of genes that has ensured not only its own survival but also the survival of men. Moreover, the vast majority of these tenacious genes appear to have little if any role in sex determination or sperm production.
Taken together, these remarkable findings — published this week in the journal Nature — suggest that because these Y-linked genes are active across the body, they may actually be contributing to differences in disease susceptibility and severity observed between men and women.
“This paper tells us that not only is the Y chromosome here to stay, but that we need to take it seriously, and not just in the reproductive tract,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page, whose lab conducted the research with collaborators from Washington University in St. Louis and Baylor College of Medicine. More.
“Evolution is telling us these genes are really important for survival,” adds Winston Bellott, a research scientist in the Page lab and lead author of the Nature paper. “They’ve been selected and purified over time.”
Good thing evolution tells things to Winston Bellott. We thought it just whistled while it worked.
The Y chromosome had been reprieved earlier from its status as a vestige about to disappear, but this is newish.
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