A team of researchers has conducted a series of tests focused on male Y chromosomes recovered from a large number of species from the great ape family. Y chromosomes were collected from orangutan and bonobo individuals. After the chromosomes were sequenced and reconstructed, they were compared with the ones of other great apes: humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.
The study explores how the evolution of the Y chromosome plays a key role in fertility among humans while also offering essential information about reproductive patterns and the possibility to identify and observe male lineages.
Hard to observe
Y chromosomes play an important role in male fertility and feature genes that are mandatory for the production of sperm but tend to be neglected in the case of most genomic studies since it is very difficult to sequence and assemble them.
One of the major challenges stems from the fact that the Y chromosome comes with a significant number of repeating sequences, a trait that complicates the analysis process, especially since there are no software packages that can handle them, forcing researchers to develop and improve experimental processes.
Few but important genes
While the Y chromosome features a low number of genes, many of them play an important role in determining the male sex and sperm generation. Previous research has shown interesting patterns across sequences from humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas as human Y chromosomes are more similar to gorilla Y chromosomes.
Sequenced Y chromosomes from bonobos and orangutans have revealed a common pattern of accelerated DNA change and gene loss between the former and chimpanzees. Observations of the orangutan Y chromosome have confirmed expectations based on their ties to great apes. The team has also explored the potential structure of Y chromosomes among ancestors of great apes.
The study has been published in a scientific journal.