In the act of determining who is male and who is female, the Y chromosome has found itself in a unique and strange position. This blog series, the Y chromosome, will explore this position and answer some questions, such as: Why does it have so few genes? How did its lack of recombination with its homologue, the X, come to evolve? Will it go extinct as the popular media often speculates?
My background in the topic is limited – indeed, as an undergraduate I have zero professional or academic experience researching the Y. However, the Y chromosome is what I wrote about for a decent-length paper (~15-20 pages) and I found it so damn interesting I wanted to expose it to a wider public.
Due to the time constraints for the paper (I wrote the paper in about a month), I was unable to fully explore the history of the Y as a subject of research as well as comparisons of the human Y (on which I wrote) to non-primate mammals, and I hopefully I will be able to do so here.
Here is the rough outline of where we will begin and where we will go:
1. Y Basics – role in sex determination, gene content, etc.
2. History – how was the Y viewed historically?
3. Page Lab – DC Page’s lab at the Whitehead Institute was the first to fully sequence the human Y as well as the chimp Y and they have made some intriguing discoveries as to its architecture and evolution
4. We will then explore more specific topics including research done by other labs. Examples include gene conversion, male-biased mutation, evolutionary strata, and more.
As research is still very much ongoing, there is possibly no end to this series. It will depend on how long I find it interesting, I suppose! I just hope others find the strange Y chromosome as fascinating as I do!