Washington: Researchers have said that the human Y chromosome has over the course of millions of years of evolution managed to preserve a small set of genes that has ensured not only its own survival but also the survival of men.
Moreover, the vast majority of these tenacious genes appear to have little if any role in sex determination or sperm production.
The findings suggest that because these Y-linked genes are active across the body, they may actually be contributing to differences in disease susceptibility and severity observed between men and women.
Whitehead Institute Director David Page, whose lab conducted the research with collaborators from Washington University in St. Louis and Baylor College of Medicine, said there are approximately a dozen genes conserved on the Y that are expressed in cells and tissue types throughout the body.
He said these are genes involved in decoding and interpreting the entirety of the genome. How pervasive their effects are is a question we throw open to the field, and it`s one we can no longer ignore.
Page believes this research will at last allow his lab to transition from proving the so-called rotting Y theorists wrong to a new era in Y chromosome biology. Over the past decade, Page, who is also a professor of biology at MIT and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and his group have been debunking the thinly supported but wildly popular argument that because the Y chromosome had lost hundreds of its genes over roughly 300 million years of evolution, its ultimate extinction is inevitable.
The study has been published in the journal Nature.