Sex determination through X–Y heterogamety in Salix nigra

Brian J. Sanderson, Guanqiao Feng, Nan Hu, Craig H. Carlson, Lawrence B. Smart, Ken Keefover-Ring, Tongming Yin, Tao Ma, Jianquan Liu, Stephen P. DiFazio, Matthew S. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The development of non-recombining sex chromosomes has radical effects on the evolution of discrete sexes and sexual dimorphism. Although dioecy is rare in plants, sex chromosomes have evolved repeatedly throughout the diversification of angiosperms, and many of these sex chromosomes are relatively young compared to those found in vertebrates. In this study, we designed and used a sequence capture array to identify a novel sex-linked region (SLR) in Salix nigra, a basal species in the willow clade, and demonstrated that this species has XY heterogamety. We did not detect any genetic overlap with the previously characterized ZW SLRs in willows, which map to a different chromosome. The S. nigra SLR is characterized by strong recombination suppression across a 2 MB region and an excess of low-frequency alleles, resulting in a low Tajima’s D compared to the remainder of the genome. We speculate that either a recent bottleneck in population size or factors related to positive or background selection generated this differential pattern of Tajima’s D on the X and autosomes. This discovery provides insights into factors that may influence the evolution of sex chromosomes in plants and contributes to a large number of recent observations that underscore their dynamic nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-639
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021


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