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Background: The extent to which sex reversal is associated with transitions in sex determining systems (XX-XY, ZZ-ZW, etc.) or abnormal sexual differentiation is predominantly unexplored in amphibians. This is in large part because most amphibian taxa have homomorphic sex chromosomes, which has traditionally made it challenging to identify discordance between phenotypic and genetic sex in amphibians, despite all amphibians having a genetic component to sex determination. Recent advances in molecular techniques such as genome complexity reduction and high throughput sequencing present a valuable avenue for furthering our understanding of sex determination in amphibians and other taxa with homomorphic sex chromosomes like many fish and reptiles. Results: We use DArTseq as a novel approach to identify sex-linked markers in the North American green frog (Rana clamitans melanota) using lab-reared tadpoles as well as wild-caught adults from seven ponds either in undeveloped, forested habitats or suburban ponds known to be subject to contamination by anthropogenic chemicals. The DArTseq methodology identified 13 sex-linked SNP loci and eight presence-absence loci associated with males, indicating an XX-XY system. Both alleles from a single locus show partial high sequence homology to Dmrt1, a gene linked to sex determination and differentiation throughout Metazoa. Two other loci have sequence similarities to regions of the chimpanzee and human X-chromosome as well as the chicken Z-chromosome. Several loci also show geographic variation in sex-linkage, possibly indicating sex chromosome recombination. While all loci are statistically sex-linked, they show varying degrees of female heterozygosity and male homozygosity, providing further evidence that some markers are on regions of the sex chromosomes undergoing higher rates of recombination and therefore further apart from the putative sex determining locus. Conclusion: The ease of the DArTseq platform provides a useful avenue for future research on sex reversal and sex chromosome evolution in vertebrates, particularly for non-model species with homomorphic or cryptic or nascent sex chromosomes.
Lambert, M. R., Skelly, D. K., & Ezaz, T. (2016). Sex-linked markers in the North American green frog (Rana clamitans) developed using DArTseq provide early insight into sex chromosome evolution. BMC Genomics, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-016-3209-x