Sex chromosome differentiation in some species of Lepidoptera (Insecta)

Walther Traut*, František Marec

*Corresponding author for this work
47 Citations (Scopus)


Sex chromosome morphology of eight Lepidoptera species was studied, exploiting predominantly the pachytene stage when chromosomes display a remarkable chromomere pattern. Six species had a WZ/ZZ sex chromosome system, one species a W1W2Z/ZZ system and one species was of the Z/ZZ type. Much like XY chromosomes in groups with male heterogamety, the lepidopteran sex chromosomes showed various degrees of structural differentiation. Differences between Z and W chromomere patterns ranged from undetectable to obviously non-homologous. A common property of the W chromosomes (the W1 in the W1W2Z/ZZ system) was the possession of a block of heterochromatin. The heterochromatin block comprised a small or a large segment of the W or even the entire W, depending on the species. Segments with apparent structural homology are evolutionarily young parts of the sex chromosomes recently fused autosomes that have not had sufficient time for differentiation. The 'primitive' lepidopteran species Micropterix calthella had a Z/ZZ sex chromosome system. This supports the hypothesis that the lepidopteran W chromosome came into being at the base of the 'advanced' Lepidoptera; it was presumably an autosome whose homologue fused to the original Z chromosome.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChromosome Research
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)283-291
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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