Sex-biased gene expression across mammalian organ development and evolution

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Abstract

Sexually dimorphic traits are common among mammals and are specified during development through the deployment of sex-specific genetic programs. Because little is known about these programs, we investigated them using a resource of gene expression profiles in males and females throughout the development of five organs in five mammals (human, mouse, rat, rabbit, and opossum) and a bird (chicken). We found that sex-biased gene expression varied considerably across organs and species and was often cell-type specific. Sex differences increased abruptly around sexual maturity instead of increasing gradually during organ development. Finally, sex-biased gene expression evolved rapidly at the gene level, with differences between organs in the evolutionary mechanisms used, but more slowly at the cellular level, with the same cell types being sexually dimorphic across species.

Journal details

Journal Science
Volume 382
Issue number 6670
Pages eadf1046
Available online
Publication date