The ages and sizes of a sex-determination region (SDR) are difficult to determine in non-model species. Due to the lack of recombination and enrichment of repetitive elements in SDRs, the quality of assembly with short sequencing reads is universally low. Unique features present in the SDRs help provide clues about how SDRs are established and how they evolve in the absence of recombination. Several Populus
species have been reported with a male heterogametic configuration of sex (XX/XY system) mapped on chromosome 19, but the exact location of the SDR has been inconsistent among species, and thus far, none of these SDRs has been fully assembled in a genomic context. Here we identify the Y-SDR from a Y-linked contig directly from a long-read PacBio assembly of a Populus trichocarpa
male individual. We also identified homologous gene sequences in the SDR of P. trichocarpa
and the SDR of the W chromosome in Salix purpurea
. We show that inverted repeats (IRs) found in the Y-SDR and the W-SDR are lineage-specific. We hypothesize that, although the two IRs are derived from the same orthologous gene within each species, they likely have independent evolutionary histories. Furthermore, the truncated inverted repeats in P. trichocarpa
may code for small RNAs that target the homologous gene for RNA-directed DNA methylation. These findings support the hypothesis that diverse sex-determining systems may be achieved through similar evolutionary pathways, thereby providing a possible mechanism to explain the lability of sex-determination systems in plants in general.
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