skip to main content

Title: Ontogenetic Change in Male Expression of Testosterone-Responsive Genes Contributes to the Emergence of Sex-Biased Gene Expression in Anolis sagrei
Sex differences in gene expression tend to increase with age across a variety of species, often coincident with the development of sexual dimorphism and maturational changes in hormone levels. However, because most transcriptome-wide characterizations of sexual divergence are framed as comparisons of sex-biased gene expression across ages, it can be difficult to determine the extent to which age-biased gene expression within each sex contributes to the emergence of sex-biased gene expression. Using RNAseq in the liver of the sexually dimorphic brown anole lizard ( Anolis sagrei ), we found that a pronounced increase in sex-biased gene expression with age was associated with a much greater degree of age-biased gene expression in males than in females. This pattern suggests that developmental changes in males, such as maturational increases in circulating testosterone, contribute disproportionately to the ontogenetic emergence of sex-biased gene expression. To test this hypothesis, we used four different experimental contrasts to independently characterize sets of genes whose expression differed as a function of castration and/or treatment with exogenous testosterone. We found that genes that were significantly male-biased in expression or upregulated as males matured tended to be upregulated by testosterone, whereas genes that were female-biased or downregulated as males matured more » tended to be downregulated by testosterone. Moreover, the first two principal components describing multivariate gene expression indicated that exogenous testosterone reversed many of the feminizing effects of castration on the liver transcriptome of maturing males. Collectively, our results suggest that developmental changes that occur in males contribute disproportionately to the emergence of sex-biased gene expression in the Anolis liver, and that many of these changes are orchestrated by androgens such as testosterone. « less
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1755026 1453089 2024064
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Physiology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Synopsis

    Sexual size dimorphism is widespread in nature and often develops through sexual divergence in growth trajectories. In vertebrates, the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor (GH/IGF) network is an important regulator of growth, and components of this network are often regulated in sex-specific fashion during the development of sexual size dimorphism. However, expression of the GH/IGF network is not well characterized outside of mammalian model systems, and the extent to which species differences in sexual size dimorphism are related to differences in GH/IGF network expression is unclear. To begin bridging this gap, we compared GH/IGF network expression in liver and muscle from 2 lizard congeners, one with extreme male-biased sexual size dimorphism (brown anole, Anolis sagrei), and one that is sexually monomorphic in size (slender anole, A. apletophallus). Specifically, we tested whether GH/IGF network expression in adult slender anoles resembles the highly sex-biased expression observed in adult brown anoles or the relatively unbiased expression observed in juvenile brown anoles. We found that adults of the 2 species differed significantly in the strength of sex-biased expression for several key upstream genes in the GH/IGF network, including insulin-like growth factors 1 and 2. However, species differences in sex-biased expression were minor when comparingmore »adult slender anoles to juvenile brown anoles. Moreover, the multivariate expression of the entire GH/IGF network (as represented by the first two principal components describing network expression) was sex-biased for the liver and muscle of adult brown anoles, but not for either tissue in juvenile brown anoles or adult slender anoles. Our work suggests that species differences in sex-biased expression of genes in the GH/IGF network (particularly in the liver) may contribute to the evolution of species differences in sexual size dimorphism.

    « less
  2. Synopsis Previous research has demonstrated that testosterone (T) can inhibit growth in female-larger species and stimulate growth in male-larger species, but the underlying mechanisms of this regulatory bipotentiality have not been investigated. In this study, we investigated the effects of T on the expression of hepatic insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) mRNA and circulating IGF-1 hormone in Sceloporus undulatus, a species of lizard in which females grow faster to become larger than males and in which T inhibits growth. Experiments were performed in captivity on mature female and male adults in the asymptotic phase of their growth curve and on actively growing, pre-reproductive juveniles. In adult males, the expression of hepatic IGF-1 mRNA increased following surgical castration and returned to control levels with T replacement; in intact adult females, exogenous T had no effect on IGF-1 mRNA expression. In juveniles, T significantly reduced both growth and the expression of hepatic IGF-1 mRNA to similar extents in intact females and in castrated males. The relative inhibitory effects of T on mRNA expression were greater in juveniles than in adults. Plasma IGF-1 hormone was about four times higher in juveniles than in adults, but T had no significant effect on IGF-1 hormone inmore »either sex or in either age group. Our finding of inhibition of the expression of hepatic IGF-1 mRNA stands in contrast to the stimulatory effects of T in the published body of literature. We attribute our novel finding to our use of a species in which T inhibits rather than stimulates growth. Our findings begin to explain how T has the regulatory bipotentiality to be stimulatory in some species and inhibitory in others, requiring only an evolutionary reversal in the molecular regulation of growth-regulatory genes including IGF-1. Further comparative transcriptomic studies will be required to fully resolve the molecular mechanism of growth inhibition.« less
  3. Abstract

    Sex chromosomes frequently differ from the autosomes in the frequencies of genes with sexually dimorphic or tissue-specific expression. Multiple hypotheses have been put forth to explain the unique gene content of the X chromosome, including selection against male-beneficial X-linked alleles, expression limits imposed by the haploid dosage of the X in males, and interference by the dosage compensation complex on expression in males. Here, we investigate these hypotheses by examining differential gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster following several treatments that have widespread transcriptomic effects: bacterial infection, viral infection, and abiotic stress. We found that genes that are induced (upregulated) by these biotic and abiotic treatments are frequently under-represented on the X chromosome, but so are those that are repressed (downregulated) following treatment. We further show that whether a gene is bound by the dosage compensation complex in males can largely explain the paucity of both up- and downregulated genes on the X chromosome. Specifically, genes that are bound by the dosage compensation complex, or close to a dosage compensation complex high-affinity site, are unlikely to be up- or downregulated after treatment. This relationship, however, could partially be explained by a correlation between differential expression and breadth of expression acrossmore »tissues. Nonetheless, our results suggest that dosage compensation complex binding, or the associated chromatin modifications, inhibit both up- and downregulation of X chromosome gene expression within specific contexts, including tissue-specific expression. We propose multiple possible mechanisms of action for the effect, including a role of Males absent on the first, a component of the dosage compensation complex, as a dampener of gene expression variance in both males and females. This effect could explain why the Drosophila X chromosome is depauperate in genes with tissue-specific or induced expression, while the mammalian X has an excess of genes with tissue-specific expression.

    « less
  4. The democratization of genomic technologies has revealed profound sex biases in expression patterns in every adult tissue, even in organs with no conspicuous differences, such as the heart. With the increasing awareness of the disparities in cardiac pathophysiology between males and females, there are exciting opportunities to explore how sex differences in the heart are established developmentally. Although sexual dimorphism is traditionally attributed to hormonal influence, expression and epigenetic sex biases observed in early cardiac development can only be accounted for by the difference in sex chromosome composition, i.e., XX in females and XY in males. In fact, genes linked to the X and Y chromosomes, many of which encode regulatory factors, are expressed in cardiac progenitor cells and at every subsequent developmental stage. The effect of the sex chromosome composition may explain why many congenital heart defects originating before gonad formation exhibit sex biases in presentation, mortality, and morbidity. Some transcriptional and epigenetic sex biases established soon after fertilization persist in cardiac lineages, suggesting that early epigenetic events are perpetuated beyond early embryogenesis. Importantly, when sex hormones begin to circulate, they encounter a cardiac genome that is already functionally distinct between the sexes. Although there is a wealth ofmore »knowledge on the effects of sex hormones on cardiac function, we propose that sex chromosome-linked genes and their downstream targets also contribute to the differences between male and female hearts. Moreover, identifying how hormones influence sex chromosome effects, whether antagonistically or synergistically, will enhance our understanding of how sex disparities are established. We also explore the possibility that sexual dimorphism of the developing heart predicts sex-specific responses to environmental signals and foreshadows sex-biased health-related outcomes after birth.« less
  5. Abstract Background

    Mammalian gonadal sex is determined by the presence or absence of a Y chromosome and the subsequent production of sex hormones contributes to secondary sexual differentiation. However, sex chromosome-linked genes encoding dosage-sensitive transcription and epigenetic factors are expressed well before gonad formation and have the potential to establish sex-biased expression that persists beyond the appearance of gonadal hormones. Here, we apply a comparative bioinformatics analysis on a pair of published single-cell datasets from mouse and human during very early embryogenesis—from two-cell to pre-implantation stages—to characterize sex-specific signals and to assess the degree of conservation among early acting sex-specific genes and pathways.


    Clustering and regression analyses of gene expression across samples reveal that sex initially plays a significant role in overall gene expression patterns at the earliest stages of embryogenesis which potentially may be the byproduct of signals from male and female gametes during fertilization. Although these transcriptional sex effects rapidly diminish, sex-biased genes appear to form sex-specific protein–protein interaction networks across pre-implantation stages in both mammals providing evidence that sex-biased expression of epigenetic enzymes may establish sex-specific patterns that persist beyond pre-implantation. Non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) on male and female transcriptomes generated clusters of genes with similar expression patternsmore »across sex and developmental stages, including post-fertilization, epigenetic, and pre-implantation ontologies conserved between mouse and human. While the fraction of sex-differentially expressed genes (sexDEGs) in early embryonic stages is similar and functional ontologies are conserved, the genes involved are generally different in mouse and human.


    This comparative study uncovers much earlier than expected sex-specific signals in mouse and human embryos that pre-date hormonal signaling from the gonads. These early signals are diverged with respect to orthologs yet conserved in terms of function with important implications in the use of genetic models for sex-specific disease.

    « less