Published on Sat Sep 25 2021

The chromosomal distribution of sex-biased microRNAs in Drosophila is non-adaptive

Marco, A.

In Drosophila melanogaster, the X chromosome is enriched in male-biased microRNA genes, although it is depleted of protein-coding genes. Genes are often differentially expressed between males and females. The paucity of male- biased genes in the X chromosomes is generally explained by an evolutionary process called demasculinization.

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Abstract

Genes are often differentially expressed between males and females. In Drosophila melanogaster, the analysis of sex-biased microRNAs (short non-coding regulatory molecules) has revealed striking differences with protein-coding genes. Mainly, the X chromosome is enriched in male-biased microRNA genes, although it is depleted of male-biased protein-coding genes. The paucity of male-biased genes in the X chromosome is generally explained by an evolutionary process called demasculinization. I suggest that the excess of male-biased microRNAs in the X chromosome is due to high-rates of de novo emergence of microRNAs, a tendency of novel microRNAs in the X chromosome to be expressed in testis, and to a lack of a demasculinization process. To test this hypothesis I analysed the expression profile of microRNAs in males, females and gonads in D. pseudoobscura, in which an autosome translocated into the X chromosome effectively becoming part of a sex chromosome (neo-X). I found that the pattern of sex- biased expression is generally conserved between D. melanogaster and D. pseudoobscura. Also, orthologous microRNAs in both species conserve their chromosomal location, indicating that there is no evidence of demasculinization or other inter-chromosomal movement of microRNAs. D. pseudoobscura-specific microRNAs in the neo-X chromosome tend to be male-biased and particularly expressed in testis. In summary, the apparent paradox resulting from male-biased protein-coding genes depleted in the X chromosome and an enrichment in male-biased microRNAs is a consequence of different evolutionary dynamics between coding genes and short RNAs.