An Excess of Gene Expression Divergence on the X Chromosome in Drosophila Embryos: Implications for the Faster-X Hypothesis
Author SummaryThere is a single copy of the X chromosome in males, yet two copies in females. This unique inheritance pattern has long been predicted to influence how the X chromosome evolves. In particular, the theory suggests that the single copy of the X in males could facilitate faster evolution of the X, although this faster evolution could be either adaptive or non-adaptive. We measured gene expression across the chromosomes in several different Drosophila species and also in several inbred strains of D. melanogaster for both embryos and adults. We found that gene expression is evolving significantly faster between species in the embryos, yet harbours significantly less variation within inbred strains. In adults, evolution between species appears to be much slower than in the embryos, yet they also harbour significantly lower levels of gene expression variation on the X chromosome in inbred strains. Overall, our results are consistent with there being an excess of adaptive evolution on the X chromosome in Drosophila embryos. Finally, we underscore the importance of biological context for understanding how chromosomes evolve in different species.