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Heredity (Edinb). 2009 Mar;102(3):312-20. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2008.116. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

All dosage compensation is local: gene-by-gene regulation of sex-biased expression on the chicken Z chromosome.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK.


Recent reports have suggested that birds lack a mechanism of wholesale dosage compensation for the Z sex chromosome. This discovery was rather unexpected, as all other animals investigated with chromosomal mechanisms of sex determination have some method to counteract the effects of gene dosage of the dominant sex chromosome in males and females. Despite the lack of a global mechanism of avian dosage compensation, the pattern of gene expression difference between males and females varies a great deal for individual Z-linked genes. This suggests that some genes may be individually dosage compensated, and that some less-than-global pattern of dosage compensation, such as local or temporal, exists on the avian Z chromosome. We used global gene expression profiling in males and females for both somatic and gonadal tissue at several time points in the life cycle of the chicken to assess the pattern of sex-biased gene expression on the Z chromosome. Average fold-change between males and females varied somewhat among tissue time-point combinations, with embryonic brain samples having the smallest gene dosage effects, and adult gonadal tissue having the largest degree of male bias. Overall, there were no neighborhoods of overall dosage compensation along the Z. Taken together, this suggests that dosage compensation is regulated on the Z chromosome entirely on a gene-by-gene level, and can vary during the life cycle and by tissue type. This regulation may be an indication of how critical a given gene's functionality is, as the expression level for essential genes will be tightly regulated in order to avoid perturbing important pathways and networks with differential expression levels in males and females.

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