Meiotic Executioner Genes Protect the Y from Extinction

Paul D. Waters*, Aurora Ruiz-Herrera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The Y has been described as a wimpy degraded relic of the X, with imminent demise should it lose sex-determining function. Why then has it persisted in almost all mammals? Here we present a novel mechanistic explanation for its evolutionary perseverance: the persistent Y hypothesis. The Y chromosome bears genes that act as their own judge, jury, and executioner in the tightly regulated meiotic surveillance pathways. These executioners are crucial for successful meiosis, yet need to be silenced during the meiotic sex chromosome inactivation window, otherwise germ cells die. Only rare transposition events to the X, where they remain subject to obligate meiotic silencing, are heritable, posing strong evolutionary constraint for the Y chromosome to persist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-738
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • executioner genes
  • meiosis
  • meiotic sex chromosome inactivation
  • sex chromosome evolution
  • Y chromosome loss
  • Zfy


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