Chromosome-scale assembly of the genome of Salix dunnii reveals a male-heterogametic sex determination system on chromosome 7

Sex determination systems in plants can involve either female or male heterogamety (ZW or XY, respectively). Here we used Illumina short reads, Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) long reads, and Hi-C reads to assemble the first chromosome-scale genome of a female willow tree (Salix dunnii), and to predict genes using transcriptome sequences and available databases.

The final genome sequence of 328 Mb in total was assembled in 29 contigs, and includes 31,501 genes. We inferred a male heterogametic sex determining factor on chromosome 7, suggesting that, unlike the female heterogamety of most species in the genus Salix, male heterogamety evolved in the subgenus Salix. The S. dunnii X-linked region occupies about 3.21 Mb of chromosome 7, and is probably in a pericentromeric region.

Our data suggest that this region is enriched for transposable element insertions, and about one third of its 124 protein-coding genes were gained via duplications from other genome regions. We detect purifying selection on the genes that were ancestrally present in the region, though some have been lost. Transcriptome data from female and male individuals show more male- than female-biased genes in catkin and leaf tissues, and indicate enrichment for male-biased genes in the pseudo-autosomal regions.

Our study provides valuable genomic resources for studying sex chromosome evolution in Salicaceae family.

Authors: Li He, Kai-Hua Jia, Ren-Gang Zhang, Yuan Wang, Tian-Le Shi, Zhi-Chao Li, Si-Wen Zeng, Xin-Jie Cai, Natascha Dorothea Wagner, Elvira Hörandl, Aline Muyle, Ke Yang, Deborah Charlesworth, Jian-Feng Mao