The family Cucurbitaceae showcases a wide range of sexual phenotypes being variedly regulated by biological and environmental factors. In the present context, we have tried to assemble reports of cytogenetic investigations carried out in cucurbits accompanied by information on sex expression diversities and chromosomal or molecular basis of sex determination in dioecious (or other sexual types, if reported) taxa known so far. Most of the Cucurbitaceae tribes have mixed sexual phenotypes with varying range of chromosome numbers and hence, ancestral conditions become difficult to probe. Occurrence of polyploidy is rare in the family and has no influence on sexual traits. The sex determination mechanisms have been elucidated in some well-studied taxa like Bryonia, Coccinia and Cucumis showing interplay of genic, biochemical, developmental and sometimes chromosomal determinants. Substantial knowledge about genic and molecular sex differentiation has been obtained for genera like Momordica, Cucurbita and Trichosanthes. The detailed information on sex determination schemes, genomic sequences and molecular phylogenetic relationships facilitate further comprehensive investigations in the tribe Bryonieae. The discovery of organ identity genes and sex-specific sequences regulating sexual behaviour in Coccinia, Cucumis and Cucurbita opens up opportunities of relevant investigations to answer yet unaddressed questions pertaining to floral unisexuality, dioecy and chromosome evolution in the family. The present discussion brings the genera in light, previously recognized under subfamily Nhandiroboideae, where the study of chromosome cytology and sex determination mechanisms can simplify our understanding of sex expression pathways and its phylogenetic impacts.
Volume 100, 2021
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