Recent progress of chicken genome projects has revealed that bird ZW and mammalian XY sex chromosomes were derived from different autosomal pairs of the common ancestor; however, the evolutionary relationship between bird and reptilian sex chromosomes is still unclear. The Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) exhibits genetic sex determination, but no distinguishable (heteromorphic) sex chromosomes have been identified. In order to investigate this further, we performed molecular cytogenetic analyses of this species, and thereby identified ZZ/ZW-type micro-sex chromosomes. In addition, we cloned reptile homologues of chicken Z-linked genes from three reptilian species, the Chinese soft-shelled turtle and the Japanese four-striped rat snake (Elaphe quadrivirgata), which have heteromorphic sex chromosomes, and the Siam crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis), which exhibits temperature-dependent sex determination and lacks sex chromosomes. We then mapped them to chromosomes of each species using FISH. The linkage of the genes has been highly conserved in all species: the chicken Z chromosome corresponded to the turtle chromosome 6q, snake chromosome 2p and crocodile chromosome 3. The order of the genes was identical among the three species. The absence of homology between the bird Z chromosome and the snake and turtle Z sex chromosomes suggests that the origin of the sex chromosomes and the causative genes of sex determination are different between birds and reptiles.

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