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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Genome-wide association mapping uncovers sex-associated copy number variation markers and female hemizygous regions on the W chromosome in Salix viminalis

Hallingback, Henrik R.; Pucholt, Pascal; Ingvarsson, Par K.; Ronnberg-Wastljung, Ann Christin; Berlin, Sofia


Background Sex chromosomes are in some species largely undifferentiated (homomorphic) with restricted sex determination regions. Homomorphic but different sex chromosomes are found in the closely related genera Populus and Salix indicating flexible sex determination systems, ideal for studies of processes involved in sex chromosome evolution. We have performed genome-wide association studies of sex and analysed sex chromosomes in a population of 265 wild collected Salix viminalis accessions and studied the sex determining locus. Results A total of 19,592 markers were used in association analyses using both Fisher's exact tests and a single-marker mixed linear model, which resulted in 48 and 41 sex-associated (SA) markers respectively. Across all 48 SA markers, females were much more often heterozygous than males, which is expected if females were the heterogametic sex. The majority of the SA markers were, based on positions in the S. purpurea genome, located on chromosome 15, previously demonstrated to be the sex chromosome. Interestingly, when mapping the genotyping-by-sequencing sequence tag harbouring the two SA markers with the highest significance to the S. viminalis genomic scaffolds, five regions of very high similarity were found: three on a scaffold that represents a part of chromosome 15, one on a scaffold that represents a part of chromosome 9 and one on a scaffold not anchored to the genome. Based on segregation differences of the alleles at the two marker positions and on differences in PCR amplification between females and males we conclude that females had multiple copies of this DNA fragment (chromosome 9 and 15), whereas males only had one (chromosome 9). We therefore postulate that the female specific sequences have been copied from chromosome 9 and inserted on chromosome 15, subsequently developing into a hemizygous W chromosome linked region. Conclusions Our results support that sex determination in S. viminalis is controlled by one locus on chromosome 15. The segregation patterns observed at the SA markers furthermore confirm that S. viminalis females are the heterogametic sex. We also identified a translocation from chromosome 9 to the W chromosome.


Sex determination; Salix viminalis; Female heterogamety; Association mapping; GWAS; Paralogous loci; Copy number variation; Sex specific markers

Published in

BMC Genomics
2021, Volume: 22, number: 1, article number: 710
Publisher: BMC