Sexual dimorphism and the evolution of sex-biased gene expression in the brown alga Ectocarpus

Agnieszka Lipinska, Alexandre Cormier, Remy Luthringer, Akira F. Peters, Erwan Corre, Claire M. M. Gachon, J. Mark Cock, Susana M. Coelho

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Abstract

Males and females often have marked phenotypic differences, and the expression of these dissimilarities invariably involves sex differences in gene expression. Sex-biased gene expression has been well characterized in animal species, where a high proportion of the genome may be differentially regulated in males and females during development. Male-biased genes tend to evolve more rapidly than female-biased genes, implying differences in the strength of the selective forces acting on the two sexes. Analyses of sex-biased gene expression have focused on organisms that exhibit separate sexes during the diploid phase of the life cycle (diploid sexual systems), but the genetic nature of the sexual system is expected to influence the evolutionary trajectories of sex-biased genes. We analyze here the patterns of sex-biased gene expression in Ectocarpus, a brown alga with haploid sex determination (dioicy) and a low level of phenotypic sexual dimorphism. In Ectocarpus, female-biased genes were found to be evolving as rapidly as male-biased genes. Moreover, genes expressed at fertility showed faster rates of evolution than genes expressed in immature gametophytes. Both male- and female-biased genes had a greater proportion of sites experiencing positive selection, suggesting that their accelerated evolution is at least partly driven by adaptive evolution. Gene duplication appears to have played a significant role in the generation of sex-biased genes in Ectocarpus, expanding previous models that propose this mechanism for the resolution of sexual antagonism in diploid systems. The patterns of sex-biased gene expression in Ectocarpus are consistent both with predicted characteristics of UV (haploid) sexual systems and with the distinctive aspects of this organism's reproductive biology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1597
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Keywords

  • sex-biased gene expression
  • haploid-diploid life cycle
  • brown algae
  • UV sex chromosomes

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