Skip to main content
Dryad logo

High rates of evolution preceded shifts to sex-biased gene expression in Leucadendron, the most sexually dimorphic angiosperms

Citation

Scharmann, Mathias; Rebelo, Anthony; Pannell, John (2021), High rates of evolution preceded shifts to sex-biased gene expression in Leucadendron, the most sexually dimorphic angiosperms, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jsxksn0b4

Abstract

Differences between males and females are usually more subtle in dioecious plants than animals, but strong sexual dimorphism has evolved convergently in the South African Cape plant genus Leucadendron. Such sexual dimorphism in leaf size is expected largely to be due to differential gene expression between the sexes. We compared patterns of gene expression in leaves among ten Leucadendron species across the genus. Surprisingly, we found no positive association between sexual dimorphism in morphology and the number or the percentage of sex-biased genes. Sex bias in most sex-biased genes evolved recently and was species-specific. We compared rates of evolutionary change in expression for genes that were sex-biased in one species but unbiased in others and found that sex-biased genes evolved faster in expression than un-biased genes. This greater rate of expression evolution of sex-biased genes, also documented in animals, might suggest the possible role of sexual selection in the evolution of gene expression. However, our comparative analysis clearly indicates that the more rapid rate of expression evolution of sex-biased genes predated the origin of bias, and shifts towards bias were depleted in signatures of adaptation. Our results are thus more consistent with the view that sex bias is simply freer to evolve in genes less subject to constraints in expression level.

Funding

Swiss National Science Foundation, Award: 310030_185196