Sex biased expression and co-expression networks in development, using the hymenopteran Nasonia vitripennis

Alfredo Rago, John H Werren, John Colbourne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


Sexual dimorphism requires regulation of gene expression in developing organisms. These developmental differences are caused by differential expression of genes and isoforms. The effect of expressing a gene is also influenced by which other genes are simultaneously expressed (functional interactions). However, few studies have described how these processes change across development. We compare the dynamics of differential expression, isoform switching and functional interactions in the sexual development of the model parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis, a system that permits genome wide analysis of sex bias from early embryos to adults. We find relatively little sex-bias in embryos and larvae at the gene level, but several sub-networks show sex-biased functional interactions in early developmental stages. These networks provide new candidates for hymenopteran sex determination, including histone modification. In contrast, sex-bias in pupae and adults is driven by the differential expression of genes. We observe sex-biased isoform switching consistently across development, but mostly in genes that are already differentially expressed. Finally, we discover that sex-biased networks are enriched by genes specific to the Nasonia clade, and that those genes possess the topological properties of key regulators. These findings suggest that regulators in sex-biased networks evolve more rapidly than regulators of other developmental networks.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008518
Number of pages32
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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