B-chromosome evolution

Juan Pedro M. Camacho, Timothy F. Sharbel, Leo W. Beukeboom

Abstract

B chromosomes are extra chromosomes to the standard complement that occur in many organisms. They can originate in a number of ways including derivation from autosomes and sex chromosomes in intraand interspecies crosses. Their subsequent molecular evolution resembles that of univalent sex chromosomes, which involves gene silencing, heterochromatinization and the accumulation of repetitive DNA and transposons. B-chromosome frequencies in populations result from a balance between their transmission rates and their effects on host fitness. Their long-term evolution is considered to be the outcome of selection on the host genome to eliminate B chromosomes or suppress their effects and on the B chromosome's ability to escape through the generation of new variants. Because B chromosomes interact with the standard chromosomes, they can play an important role in genome evolution and may be useful for studying molecular evolutionary processes.