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Given their copy number differences and unique modes of inheritance, the evolved gene content and expression of sex chromosomes is unusual. In many organisms the X and Y chromosomes are inactivated in spermatocytes, possibly as a defense mechanism against insertions into unpaired chromatin. In addition to current sex chromosomes, Drosophila has a small gene-poor X-chromosome relic (4th) that re-acquired autosomal status. Here we use single cell RNA-Seq on fly larvae to demonstrate that the single X and pair of 4th chromosomes are specifically inactivated in primary spermatocytes, based on measuring all genes or a set of broadly expressed genes in testis we identified. In contrast, genes on the single Y chromosome become maximally active in primary spermatocytes. Reduced X transcript levels are due to failed activation of RNA-Polymerase-II by phosphorylation of Serine 2 and 5.


Sharvani Mahadevaraju, Justin M Fear, Miriam Akeju, Brian J Galletta, Mara M L S Pinheiro, Camila C Avelino, Diogo C Cabral-de-Mello, Katie Conlon, Stafania Dell'Orso, Zelalem Demere, Kush Mansuria, Carolina A Mendonça, Octavio M Palacios-Gimenez, Eli Ross, Max Savery, Kevin Yu, Harold E Smith, Vittorio Sartorelli, Haiwang Yang, Nasser M Rusan, Maria D Vibranovski, Erika Matunis, Brian Oliver. Dynamic sex chromosome expression in Drosophila male germ cells. Nature communications. 2021 Feb 09;12(1):892

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PMID: 33563972

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