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Cross-Species Y Chromosome Function Between Malaria Vectors of the Anopheles gambiae Species Complex

Bernardini, Federica; Galizi, Roberto; Wunderlich, Mariana; Taxiarchi, Chrysanthi; Kranjc, Nace; Kyrou, Kyros; Hammond, Andrew; Nolan, Tony; Lawniczak, Mara N K; Aris Papathanos, Philippos; Crisanti, Andrea; Windbichler, Nikolai

            Cross-Species Y Chromosome Function Between Malaria Vectors of the            Anopheles gambiae            Species Complex Thumbnail


Federica Bernardini

Mariana Wunderlich

Chrysanthi Taxiarchi

Nace Kranjc

Kyros Kyrou

Andrew Hammond

Tony Nolan

Mara N K Lawniczak

Philippos Aris Papathanos

Andrea Crisanti

Nikolai Windbichler


Y chromosome function, structure and evolution is poorly understood in many species, including the Anopheles genus of mosquitoes-an emerging model system for studying speciation that also represents the major vectors of malaria. While the Anopheline Y had previously been implicated in male mating behavior, recent data from the Anopheles gambiae complex suggests that, apart from the putative primary sex-determiner, no other genes are conserved on the Y. Studying the functional basis of the evolutionary divergence of the Y chromosome in the gambiae complex is complicated by complete F1 male hybrid sterility. Here, we used an F1 × F0 crossing scheme to overcome a severe bottleneck of male hybrid incompatibilities that enabled us to experimentally purify a genetically labeled A. gambiae Y chromosome in an A. arabiensis background. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) confirmed that the A. gambiae Y retained its original sequence content in the A. arabiensis genomic background. In contrast to comparable experiments in Drosophila, we find that the presence of a heterospecific Y chromosome has no significant effect on the expression of A. arabiensis genes, and transcriptional differences can be explained almost exclusively as a direct consequence of transcripts arising from sequence elements present on the A. gambiae Y chromosome itself. We find that Y hybrids show no obvious fertility defects, and no substantial reduction in male competitiveness. Our results demonstrate that, despite their radically different structure, Y chromosomes of these two species of the gambiae complex that diverged an estimated 1.85 MYA function interchangeably, thus indicating that the Y chromosome does not harbor loci contributing to hybrid incompatibility. Therefore, Y chromosome gene flow between members of the gambiae complex is possible even at their current level of divergence. Importantly, this also suggests that malaria control interventions based on sex-distorting Y drive would be transferable, whether intentionally or contingent, between the major malaria vector species.


Bernardini, F., Galizi, R., Wunderlich, M., Taxiarchi, C., Kranjc, N., Kyrou, K., …Windbichler, N. (2017). Cross-Species Y Chromosome Function Between Malaria Vectors of the Anopheles gambiae Species Complex. Genetics, 729 - 740.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 21, 2017
Publication Date Aug 31, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Journal Genetics
Print ISSN 0016-6731
Publisher Genetics Society of America
Pages 729 - 740
Keywords cross-species, y chromosomnme, malaria, anopheles gambiae
Publisher URL


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