Sex-Chromosome Biology and Evolution

The extent to which males and females differ varies widely in nature, and understanding what drives sexual dimorphism has been a long-standing challenge. Despite these morphological differences, only two chromosomes differ between the sexes: the X and the Y, also known as the sex chromosomes. The Y, which is only present in males, is often small and "degenerated" compared to other chromosomes. The biology of the X is also unusual: for instance, the inactivation of one X in mammalian females is required to compensate for the single copy in males. Sex chromosomes are thought to be key to the establishment of separate male and female phenotypes.

Beatriz Vicoso is interested in understanding several aspects of the biology of sex chromosomes, and the evolutionary processes that shape their peculiar features. By combining the use of next-generation sequencing technologies with studies in several model and non-model organisms, a variety of standing questions can be addressed, such as: why do some Y chromosomes degenerate while other remain homomorphic, and how does this relate to the extent of sexual dimorphism of the species? What forces drive some species to acquire global dosage compensation of the X, while others only compensate specific genes? What are the frequency and molecular dynamics of sex-chromosome turnover? This approach has already allowed new patterns to be uncovered in trematodes, birds, snakes and insects, and expanding it will greatly widen our understanding of how and why sex chromosomes evolve.


Beatriz Vicoso
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg


CV & publication list

Vicoso Group website

Christine Ostermann

Phone: +43 (0)2243 9000-1071


  • Christelle Fraisse, Postdoc
  • Ann Kathrin Huylmans, Postdoc
  • Réka Kelemen, PhD Student
  • Ariana Macon, Lab Technician
  • Melissa Toups, Postdoc

Current Projects

  • Sex chromosome turnover
  • Dosage compensation in female-heterogametic species
  • Ancient homomorphic sex chromosomes

Selected Publications

  • A Pal, B Vicoso (2015). The X chromosome of hemipteran insects: conservation, dosage compensation and sex-biased expression. Genome Biology and Evolution, doi: 10.1093/gbe/evv215.
  • B Vicoso, D Bachtrog (2015). Numerous transitions of sex chromosomes in Diptera. PLoS Biol 13(4): e1002078
  • B Vicoso, D Bachtrog (2013) Reversal of an ancient sex chromosome to an autosome in Drosophila. Nature 499 (7458), 332-335


2015 Assistant Professor, IST Austria
2009-2014 Postdoctoral researcher, UC Berkeley
2010 PhD, University of Edinburgh

Selected Distinctions

2016 ERC Starting Grant
2016-2019 FWF Standalone grant
2011 DeLill Nasser travel award from the Genetics Society of America
2003-2007 PhD Scholarship from the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation