The male chromosome Y does more than we thought

The male chromosome Y does more than we thought

In an article published in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research online journal, Christian Deschepper – Director of the Experimental Cardiovascular Biology Research Unit at IRCM, Full Research Professor at Université de Montréal and Adjunct Professor at McGill University – recently highlighted a hitherto unknown role for some of the exclusively male genes found in the male Y chromosome. 
Humans each have 23 pairs of chromosomes, including 1 pair of sex chromosomes. While females carry two “X” sex chromosomes, males carry one X chromosome and one Y chromosome.  The latter carries genes which female subjects lack.  Although the male genes are expressed in all cells of the body, their sole confirmed role up to now was limited to some functions of sex organs.
The work of Christian Deschepper shows that a genetic manipulation that inactivates only two of the chromosome Y male genes affected several signalling pathways playing important roles in some of the cell functions of non-sexual organs, such as for instance heart cells.  Moreover, these male genes exerted their regulatory functions in a manner that was rather different from the mechanisms generally used by most other genes found in non-sexual chromosomes.  These findings might partly explain why the functions of the male genes from chromosome Y were hitherto poorly understood.
Men differ from women when it comes to the presentation, the severity and the consequences of most diseases.  COVID-19, whose mortality rate is twice higher in men than in women, constitutes one recent example of such dichotomy.  The findings of Dr. Deschepper allow one to better understand how male genes from chromosome Y make male cells function differently than female cells.  In the future, these findings might help to elucidate in part why diseases manifest themselves differently in men than in women.
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