New Insights into the Evolution of the W Chromosome in Lepidoptera

Martina Dalíková, Magda Zrzavá, Irena Hladová, Petr Nguyen, Ivan Šonský, Martina Flegrová, Svatava Kubíčková, Anna Voleníková, Akito Y. Kawahara, Ralph S. Peters, František Marec, Melissa Wilson Sayres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera) represent the most diverse group of animals with heterogametic females. Although the vast majority of species has a WZ/ZZ (female/male) sex chromosome system, it is generally accepted that the ancestral system was Z/ZZ and the W chromosome has evolved in a common ancestor of Tischeriidae and Ditrysia. However, the lack of data on sex chromosomes in lower Lepidoptera has prevented a formal test of this hypothesis. Here, we performed a detailed analysis of sex chromosomes in Tischeria ekebladella (Tischeriidae) and 3 species representing lower Ditrysia, Cameraria ohridella (Gracillariidae), Plutella xylostella (Plutellidae), and Tineola bisselliella (Tineidae). Using comparative genomic hybridization we show that the first 3 species have well-differentiated W chromosomes, which vary considerably in their molecular composition, whereas T. bisselliella has no W chromosome. Furthermore, our results suggest the presence of neo-sex chromosomes in C. ohridella. For Z chromosomes, we selected 5 genes evenly distributed along the Z chromosome in ditrysian model species and tested their Z-linkage using qPCR. The tested genes (Henna, laminin A, Paramyosin, Tyrosine hydroxylase, and 6-Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase) proved to be Z-linked in all species examined. The conserved synteny of the Z chromosome across Tischeriidae and Ditrysia, along with the W chromosome absence in the lower ditrysian families Psychidae and Tineidae, suggests a possible independent origin of the W chromosomes in these 2 lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-719
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative genomic hybridization
  • Laser microdissection
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Sex chromosome evolution
  • Synteny mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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