Three types of sex chromosome system exist in nature: diploid XY and ZW systems and haploid UV systems. For many years, research has focused exclusively on XY and ZW systems, leaving UV chromosomes and haploid sex determination largely neglected. Here, we perform a detailed analysis of DNA sequence neutral diversity levels across the U and V sex chromosomes of the model brown alga Ectocarpus
using a large population dataset. We show that the U and V non-recombining regions of the sex chromosomes (SDR) exhibit about half as much neutral diversity as the autosomes. This difference is consistent with the reduced effective population size of these regions compared with the rest of the genome, suggesting that the influence of additional factors such as background selection or selective sweeps is minimal. The pseudoautosomal region (PAR) of this UV system, in contrast, exhibited surprisingly high neutral diversity and there were several indications that genes in this region may be under balancing selection. The PAR of Ectocarpus
is known to exhibit unusual genomic features and our results lay the foundation for further work aimed at understanding whether, and to what extent, these structural features underlie the high level of genetic diversity. Overall, this study fills a gap between available information on genetic diversity in XY/ZW systems and UV systems and significantly contributes to advancing our knowledge of the evolution of UV sex chromosomes.
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