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Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Nov;30(11):2435-46. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst143. Epub 2013 Aug 20.

Evolutionary dynamics of sex-biased genes in a hermaphrodite fungus.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Differential gene expression is believed to largely explain sexually dichotomous phenotypes. This phenomenon is especially significant in hermaphrodites, in which male and female sexual tissues have identical genotypes. Sex differences in transcription have been linked to molecular evolution: genes with higher expression in male compared with female sexual tissues (i.e., male-biased genes) have been associated with rapid gene divergence in various animals and plants, implying that selective differences exist among the sexual structures. In the present investigation, we examined expressed sequence tags, microarrays, and gene sequence data from the hermaphroditic fungus Neurospora crassa and confirmed selective differences of genes with disparate expression among male versus female sexual structures in this organism. The results held across various genotypes and stages of sexual development. Furthermore, our data showed that N. crassa comprises a rare example of an organism where female-biased genes evolve rapidly; they exhibited faster evolution at the protein level and reduced optimal codon usage compared with male-biased genes, sexually unbiased genes, and vegetative genes. Female-biased genes also had a greater portion of sites that experienced positive selection and showed stronger signals of selective sweeps than male-biased genes, suggesting that the rapid evolution is at least partly driven by adaptive evolution. Distinctive aspects of the reproductive biology of N. crassa which might explain the rapid evolution of female-biased genes are discussed, particularly the propensity for female-female competition during mating, as well as the multifunctional nature of male structures. The present findings open new opportunities to test hypotheses about sex-biased gene expression and molecular evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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