Paternal X inactivation does not correlate with X chromosome evolutionary strata in marsupials

Claudia L. Rodríguez-Delgado*, Shafagh A. Waters, D. Paul Waters

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: X chromosome inactivation is the transcriptional silencing of one X chromosome in the somatic cells of female mammals. In eutherian mammals (e.g. humans) one of the two X chromosomes is randomly chosen for silencing, with about 15% (usually in younger evolutionary strata of the X chromosome) of genes escaping this silencing. In contrast, in the distantly related marsupial mammals the paternally derived X is silenced, although not as completely as the eutherian X. A chromosome wide examination of X inactivation, using RNA-seq, was recently undertaken in grey short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) brain and extraembryonic tissues. However, no such study has been conduced in Australian marsupials, which diverged from their American cousins ∼80 million years ago, leaving a large gap in our understanding of marsupial X inactivation. Results: We used RNA-seq data from blood or liver of a family (mother, father and daughter) of tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii), which in conjunction with available genome sequence from the mother and father, permitted genotyping of 42 expressed heterozygous SNPs on the daughter's X. These 42 SNPs represented 34 X loci, of which 68% (23 of the 34) were confirmed as inactivated on the paternally derived X in the daughter's liver; the remaining 11 X loci escaped inactivation. Seven of the wallaby loci sampled were part of the old X evolutionary stratum, of which three escaped inactivation. Three loci were classified as part of the newer X stratum, of which two escaped inactivation. A meta-analysis of previously published opossum X inactivation data revealed that 5 of 52 genes in the old X stratum escaped inactivation. Conclusions: We demonstrate that chromosome wide inactivation of the paternal X is common to an Australian marsupial representative, but that there is more escape from inactivation than reported for opossum (32% v 14%). We also provide evidence that, unlike the human X chromosome, the location of loci within the oldest evolutionary stratum on the marsupial X does not correlate with their probability of escape from inactivation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number267
    JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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