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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(8):e1003697. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003697. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Masculinization of gene expression is associated with exaggeration of male sexual dimorphism.

Author information

1
Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom. marie.pointer@zoo.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Gene expression differences between the sexes account for the majority of sexually dimorphic phenotypes, and the study of sex-biased gene expression is important for understanding the genetic basis of complex sexual dimorphisms. However, it has been difficult to test the nature of this relationship due to the fact that sexual dimorphism has traditionally been conceptualized as a dichotomy between males and females, rather than an axis with individuals distributed at intermediate points. The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) exhibits just this sort of continuum, with dominant and subordinate males forming a gradient in male secondary sexual characteristics. This makes it possible for the first time to test the correlation between sex-biased gene expression and sexually dimorphic phenotypes, a relationship crucial to molecular studies of sexual selection and sexual conflict. Here, we show that subordinate male transcriptomes show striking multiple concordances with their relative phenotypic sexual dimorphism. Subordinate males were clearly male rather than intersex, and when compared to dominant males, their transcriptomes were simultaneously demasculinized for male-biased genes and feminized for female-biased genes across the majority of the transcriptome. These results provide the first evidence linking sexually dimorphic transcription and sexually dimorphic phenotypes. More importantly, they indicate that evolutionary changes in sexual dimorphism can be achieved by varying the magnitude of sex-bias in expression across a large proportion of the coding content of a genome.

PMID:
23966876
PMCID:
PMC3744414
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pgen.1003697
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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