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Non-recombining sex chromosomes, like the mammalian Y, often lose genes and accumulate transposable elements, a process termed degeneration1,2. The correlation between suppressed recombination and degeneration is clear in animal XY systems1,2, but the absence of recombination is confounded with other asymmetries between the X and Y. In contrast, UV sex chromosomes, like those found in bryophytes, experience symmetrical population genetic conditions3,4. Here we test for degeneration in the bryophyte UV sex chromosome system through genomic comparisons with new female and male chromosome-scale reference genomes of the moss Ceratodon purpureus. We show that the moss sex chromosomes evolved over 300 million years ago and expanded via two chromosomal fusions. Although the sex chromosomes show signs of weaker purifying selection than autosomes, we find suppressed recombination alone is insufficient to drive gene loss on sex-specific chromosomes. Instead, the U and V sex chromosomes harbor thousands of broadly-expressed genes, including numerous key regulators of sexual development across land plants.

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