In many organisms, the sex chromosome pair can be recognized due to heteromorphy; the Y and W chromosomes have often lost many genes due to the absence of recombination during meiosis and are frequently heterochromatic. Repetitive sequences are found at a high proportion on such heterochromatic sex chromosomes and the evolution and emergence of sex chromosomes has been connected to the dynamics of repeats and transposable elements. With an amazing plasticity of sex determination mechanisms and numerous instances of independent emergence of novel sex chromosomes, fish represent an excellent lineage to investigate the early stages of sex chromosome differentiation, where sex chromosomes often are homomorphic and not heterochromatic. We have analyzed the composition, distribution, and relative age of TEs from available sex chromosome sequences of seven teleost fish. We observed recent bursts of TEs and simple repeat accumulations around young sex determination loci. More strikingly, we detected transposable element (TE) amplifications not only on the sex determination regions of the Y and W sex chromosomes, but also on the corresponding regions of the X and Z chromosomes. In one species, we also clearly demonstrated that the observed TE-rich sex determination locus originated from a TE-poor genomic region, strengthening the link between TE accumulation and emergence of the sex determination locus. Altogether, our results highlight the role of TEs in the initial steps of differentiation and evolution of sex chromosomes.
2015. Vol. 23, no 3