The sex locus is tightly linked to factors conferring sex-specific lethal effects in the mosquito Aedes aegypti

In many taxa, sex chromosomes are heteromorphic and largely non-recombining. Evolutionary models predict that spread of recombination suppression on the Y chromosome is fueled by the accumulation of sexually antagonistic alleles in close linkage to the sex determination region. However, empirical evidence for the existence of sexually antagonistic alleles is scarce. In the mosquito Aedes aegypti, the sex-determining chromosomes are homomorphic. The region of suppressed recombination, which surrounds the male-specific sex-determining gene, remains very small, despite ancient origin of the sex chromosomes in the Aedes lineage. We conducted a genetic analysis of the A. aegypti chromosome region tightly linked to the sex locus. We used a strain with an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)-tagged transgene inserted near the male-determining gene to monitor crossing-over events close to the boundary of the sex-determining region (SDR), and to trace the inheritance pattern of the transgene in relation to sex. In a series of crossing experiments involving individuals with a recombinant sex chromosome we found developmental abnormalities leading to 1:2 sex biases, caused by lethality of half of the male or female progeny. Our results suggest that various factors causing sex-specific lethal effects are clustered within the neighborhood of the SDR, which in the affected sex are likely lost or gained through recombination, leading to death. These may include genes that are recessive lethal, vital for development and/or sexually antagonistic. The sex chromosome fragment in question represents a fascinating test case for the analysis of processes that shape stable boundaries of a non-recombining region.

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