SUNDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have made the surprising finding that the "female" X chromosome may have an important function in sperm production.
Women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and Y chromosome. This study found that large portions of the X chromosome have evolved to play a specialized role in producing sperm.
And despite its reputation as the most stable chromosome of the genome, the X chromosome has actually been undergoing relatively rapid changes, according to the study published online July 21 in the journal Nature Genetics.
Taken together, these two findings suggest that it's time to reexamine the biological and medical importance of the X chromosome, said the researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.
"We view this as the double life of the X chromosome," Whitehead director David Page said in an institute news release.
"The X is the most famous, most intensely studied chromosome in all of human genetics. And the story of the X has been the story of X-linked recessive diseases, such as color blindness, hemophilia, and Duchenne's muscular dystrophy," Page noted. "But there's another side to the X, a side that is rapidly evolving and seems to be attuned to the reproductive needs of males."
In the study, the researchers compared mouse and human X chromosomes and found that they had nearly 95 percent of their X-linked, single-copy genes in common. Nearly all these genes are expressed in both sexes.
But the study also identified about 340 genes that are not shared between mice and humans. Most of these genes are active almost exclusively in testicular germ cells where they likely contribute to sperm production.
"These genes are more likely to have roles in diseases that are related to reproduction, infertility, perhaps even testis cancer. There's a whole other book to be written about this aspect of the X," Page noted in the news release.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about chromosomes.
SOURCE: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, news release, July 21, 2013
be well, feel better
This nutrient is notoriously hard to get from food—so you need to be extra vigilant and keep an eye out for these clues you may not be getting enough.
Just because you can't taste it doesn't mean belly-bloating sodium isn't there. Here's how to spot the salt that's hiding in your diet.
Alison Sweeney's secrets to sneaking in fitness, making time for fun, and going after your big dreams.
These simple substitutions cut calories painlessly and can add up to a big difference on your scale.
Need help sticking to your diet? Start snacking on these good-for-you treats.
Twirling your hair or biting your nails seem harmless, but tics can wreak havoc on your skin, teeth, and more.
If you really want yours firing in high gear, watch out for these sneaky saboteurs.
Your body parts are joined in ways you never imagined. While most of these links sound strange, knowing about them could pay dividends down the line. Here are 8 crazy body connections that just might save your life.