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Sexual dimorphism like dioecy (separate male and female individuals) have evolved in diverse multicellular eukaryotes while the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of such a key biological trait remains elusive (1). The living fossil Ginkgo biloba represents an early diverged lineage of land plants with dioecy. However, its sex-determination system and molecular basis have long been controversial or unknown. In the present research, we assembled the first and largest to date chromosome-level genome of a non-model tree species using Hi-C data. With this reference genome, we addressed both questions using genome resequencing data gathered from 97 male and 265 female trees of ginkgo, as well as transcriptome data from three developmental stages for both sexes. Our results support vertebrate-like XY chromosomes for ginkgo and five potential sex-determination genes, which may originate ~14 million years ago. This is the earliest diverged sex determination region in all reported plants as yet. The present research resolved a long-term controversy, lay a foundation for future studies on the origin and evolution of plant sexes, and provide genetic markers for sex identification of ginkgo which will be valuable for both nurseries and field ecology of ginkgo.

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