Evolution of Mammalian X-chromosome Inactivation: Sex Chromatin in Monotremes and Marsupials Academic Article uri icon


  • The inactive mammalian X-chromosome is always late-replicating, and in eutherian mammals it is heterochromatic and hypermethylated. We propose that this multistep system has evolved from a more primitive system, remnants of which may be found in marsupials and monotremes. The heterochromatic X (sex-chromatin body) is a distinctive feature of interphase cells of certain tissues in eutherian females but not males. Thus we have searched for a sex-specific chromatin body in these same tissues in marsupials (brush-tail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula) and monotremes (platypus, Ornithorynchus anatinus), using classical histological techniques. A female-specific chromatin body was observed at low frequency in nuclei of possum corneal epithelium, but not in any other tissues. No sex difference was observed in any monotreme tissue. These data suggest that stabilization of X-chromosome inactivation by heterochromatinization is tissue-specific in marsupials and absent in monotremes.


  • Graves, Jenny
  • M McKay, Lynette
  • M Wrigley, Jaclyn
  • A MarshalI Graves, Jennifer

publication date

  • 1987