Sex-Biased Expression Is Associated With Chromatin State in Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans

Mol Biol Evol. 2023 May 2;40(5):msad078. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msad078.


In Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans head tissue, 60% of orthologous genes show evidence of sex-biased expression in at least one species. Of these, ∼39% (2,192) are conserved in direction. We hypothesize enrichment of open chromatin in the sex where we see expression bias and closed chromatin in the opposite sex. Male-biased orthologs are significantly enriched for H3K4me3 marks in males of both species (∼89% of male-biased orthologs vs. ∼76% of unbiased orthologs). Similarly, female-biased orthologs are significantly enriched for H3K4me3 marks in females of both species (∼90% of female-biased orthologs vs. ∼73% of unbiased orthologs). The sex-bias ratio in female-biased orthologs was similar in magnitude between the two species, regardless of the closed chromatin (H3K27me2me3) marks in males. However, in male-biased orthologs, the presence of H3K27me2me3 in both species significantly reduced the correlation between D. melanogaster sex-bias ratio and the D. simulans sex-bias ratio. Male-biased orthologs are enriched for evidence of positive selection in the D. melanogaster group. There are more male-biased genes than female-biased genes in both species. For orthologs with gains/losses of sex-bias between the two species, there is an excess of male-bias compared to female-bias, but there is no consistent pattern in the relationship between H3K4me3 or H3K27me2me3 chromatin marks and expression. These data suggest chromatin state is a component of the maintenance of sex-biased expression and divergence of sex-bias between species is reflected in the complexity of the chromatin status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin* / genetics
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster* / genetics
  • Drosophila simulans / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Male


  • Chromatin