Battle of the Xs

Bioessays. 2004 May;26(5):543-8. doi: 10.1002/bies.20034.


Females and males often exhibit conspicuous morphological, physiological and behavioral differences. Similarly, gene expression profiles indicate that a large portion of the genome is sex-differentially deployed, particularly in the germ line. Because males and females are so fundamentally different, each sex is likely to have a different optimal gene expression profile that is never fully achieved in either sex because of antagonistic selection in females versus males. Males are hemizygous for the X chromosome, which means that recessive male-favorable de novo mutations on the X chromosome are subject to immediate selection. In females, a recessive female-favorable mutation on one of two X chromosomes is not available for selection until it becomes frequent enough in the local population to result in homozygous individuals. Given that most mutations are recessive, one would expect that genes or alleles favoring males should accumulate on the X chromosome. Recent microarray work in Drosophila and C. elegans clearly shows the opposite. Why is the X chromosome a highly disfavored location for genes with male-biased expression in these animals?

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Dosage Compensation, Genetic
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • X Chromosome / genetics
  • X Chromosome / metabolism*