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Mosaic loss of human Y chromosome: what, how and why


Y chromosome (ChrY), the male-specific sex chromosome, has been considered as a genetic wasteland. Aging-related mosaic loss of ChrY (LOY) has been known for more than half a century, but it was constantly considered as a neutral karyotype related to normal aging. These views have been challenged with genome-wide association studies identifying mosaic LOY in human somatic cells is the most commonly acquired mutation in male’s genome and is associated with a wide spectrum of human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. These previously undescribed clinical significances deeply modify our perception on ChrY and open up a range of new questions. Here, we review the latest advances in our knowledge of the biological origins and clinical consequences of mosaic LOY. We highlight the association of mosaic LOY to pathogenic conditions and evaluate the cause-and-consequence relationships between mosaic LOY and pathogenesis. The known risk factors of mosaic LOY including age, genetic variants, ChrY structural aberrations and environmental stressors are discussed. In light of evidence from pioneering and more recent studies, we propose the micronucleation hypothesis and centromere-dysfunction and telomere-attrition models to explain how mosaic LOY occurs and why ChrY is prone to lose. We believe it is importantly and timely to extend mosaic LOY research from epidemiological associations to mechanistic studies. In this regard, we outline important gaps and assess several future directions from a biological and clinical perspective. An improved understanding of mosaic LOY will open new pathways to modify and increase healthy aging in males.

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We thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. We apologize to our colleagues whose work we were unable to include because of space restrictions. This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project no. 31860301 to X.W. and 31900410 to X.G.).

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XG contributed towards the design and structure of the manuscript. XG and XD reviewed the literature, designed the figures and drafted the manuscript, TZ, HW and JN contributed to the discussion. JX and XW contributed to editing. All authors read and approve the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xu Wang.

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Guo, X., Dai, X., Zhou, T. et al. Mosaic loss of human Y chromosome: what, how and why. Hum Genet 139, 421–446 (2020).

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