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Chromosome X

Sex Chromosome Evolution

Present-day sex chromosomes look very different from each other: The X chromosome comprises about 5 percent of the human genome, and contains about 2,000 genes, while the Y chromosome is quite small and contains only about 50 genes (Figure 1). This striking difference in size and gene content between the sex chromosomes makes it hard to believe that they are actually ancient partners in a pair of chromosomes that originally were very similar. Once sex became determined by a genetic signal from the Y, the sex chromosomes largely stopped recombining in germ cells. Degeneration of Y genes ensued, together with accumulation of genes that are advantageous to males on the Y chromosome, such as genes involved in testicular function and in male fertility. Similar genes appear to have accumulated on the X chromosome, so that the X chromosome also plays an important role in sperm production. The X chromosome may also have a prominent role in brain function and intelligence. A strong argument in favor of this intriguing but still controversial theory is that mental disability is more common in males.

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Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 4Chromosome X - Role Of The X Chromosome In Sex Differentiation, Sex Chromosome Evolution, The X Chromosome And Diseases