Non-canonical and sexually dimorphic X dosage compensation states in the mouse and human germline

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Abstract

Somatic X dosage compensation requires two mechanisms: X inactivation balances X gene output between males (XY) and females (XX), while X upregulation, hypothesized by Ohno and documented in vivo, balances X gene with autosomal gene output. Whether X dosage compensation occurs in germ cells is unclear. We show that mouse and human germ cells exhibit non-canonical X dosage states that differ from the soma and between the sexes. Prior to genome-wide reprogramming, X upregulation is present, consistent with Ohno's hypothesis. Subsequently, however, it is erased. In females, erasure follows loss of X inactivation, causing X dosage excess. Conversely, in males, erasure leads to permanent X dosage decompensation. Sex chromosomally abnormal models exhibit a "sex-reversed" X dosage state: XX males, like XX females, develop X dosage excess, while XO females, like XY males, develop X dosage decompensation. Thus, germline X dosage compensation states are determined by X chromosome number, not phenotypic sex. These unexpected differences in X dosage compensation states between germline and soma offer unique perspectives on sex chromosome infertility.