Transcript Isoform Diversity of Ampliconic Genes on the Y Chromosome of Great Apes


Y-chromosomal Ampliconic Genes (YAGs) are important for male fertility, as they encode proteins functioning in spermatogenesis. The variation in copy number and expression levels of these multicopy gene families has been recently studied in great apes, however, the diversity of splicing variants remains unexplored. Here we deciphered the sequences of polyadenylated transcripts of all nine YAG families (BPY2, CDY, DAZ, HSFY, PRY, RBMY, TSPY, VCY, and XKRY) from testis samples of six great ape species (human, chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, Bornean orangutan, and Sumatran orangutan). To achieve this, we enriched YAG transcripts with capture-probe hybridization and sequenced them with long (Pacific Biosciences) reads. Our analysis of this dataset resulted in several findings. First, we uncovered a high diversity of YAG transcripts across great apes. Second, we observed evolutionarily conserved alternative splicing patterns for most YAG families except for BPY2 and PRY. Our results suggest that BPY2 transcripts and predicted proteins in several great ape species (bonobo and the two orangutans) have independent evolutionary origins and are not homologous to human reference transcripts and proteins. In contrast, our results suggest that the PRY gene family, having the highest representation of transcripts without open reading frames, has been undergoing pseudogenization. Third, even though we have identified many species-specific protein-coding YAG transcripts, we have not detected any signatures of positive selection. Overall, our work illuminates the YAG isoform landscape and its evolutionary history, and provides a genomic resource for future functional studies focusing on infertility phenotypes in humans and critically endangered great apes.

Genome Biology and Evolution