Autosome and sex chromosome diversity among the African pygmy mice, subgenus Nannomys (Murinae; Mus)
The African pygmy mice, subgenus Nannomys, constitute the most speciose lineage of the genus Mus with 19 recognized species. Although morphologically very similar, they exhibit considerable chromosomal diversity which is here confirmed and extended by the G-banding analysis of 65 mice from West and South Africa. On the basis of their karyotype and distribution area, the specimens were assigned to at least five species. Extensive differentiation both within and between species was observed that involved almost exclusively Robertsonian translocations, 23 of which are newly described. Two of the rearrangements were sex chromosome-autosome translocations, associated in some cases with partial deletions of the X or Y chromosomes. Several authors have predicted that the highly deleterious effect of this rearrangement would be reduced if the sex and autosomal segments were insulated by a block of centromeric heterochromatin. The C-banding analyses performed showed that among the species carrying X-autosome translocations, one followed the expected pattern, while the other did not. In this case, functional isolation of the sex and autosome compartments must involve other repetitive sequences or genomic traits that require further molecular characterization. Such studies will provide insight into the causes and consequences of the high diversity of sex chromosome rearrangements in this subgenus.