The Minimalist Y

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Science  03 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6166, pp. 32-33
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248486

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The future of the mammalian Y chromosome has been the subject of much speculation. Because the sex chromosomes, X and Y, do not recombine genetic material through most of their length during meiosis (the process that produces gametes), it is argued that the Y chromosome is degenerating, undergoing a rapid evolution that is perhaps leading it down the road to extinction (1). In contrast to this view, sequencing efforts have revealed the complex and multilayered palindromic structure of the Y chromosome. Palindromic sequences may facilitate internal pairing of nucleotide bases, allowing the Y chromosome to repair itself through gene conversion (2, 3). This debate is among many intriguing questions about the Y chromosome and its role in gametogenesis. Yamauchi et al. (4) investigated the minimal number of genes from the Y chromosome that are required to produce gametes that can generate offspring using assisted reproduction methods. On page 69 of this issue, the authors reveal the answer—only two genes.