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Belyi, Aleksei; Argyridou, Eliza and Parsch, John (2020): The Influence of Chromosomal Environment on X-Linked Gene Expression in Drosophila melanogaster. In: Genome Biology and Evolution, Vol. 12, No. 12: pp. 2391-2402

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Sex chromosomes often differ from autosomes with respect to their gene expression and regulation. In Drosophila melanogaster, X-linked genes are dosage compensated by having their expression upregulated in the male soma, a process mediated by the X-chromosome-specific binding of the dosage compensation complex (DCC). Previous studies of X-linked gene expression found a negative correlation between a gene's male-to-female expression ratio and its distance to the nearest DCC binding site in somatic tissues, including head and brain, which suggests that dosage compensation influences sex-biased gene expression. A limitation of the previous studies, however, was that they focused on endogenous X-linked genes and, thus, could not disentangle the effects of chromosomal position from those of gene-specific regulation. To overcome this limitation, we examined the expression of an exogenous reporter gene inserted at many locations spanning the X chromosome. We observed a negative correlation between the male-to-female expression ratio of the reporter gene and its distance to the nearest DCC binding site in somatic tissues, but not in gonads. A reporter gene's location relative to a DCC binding site had greater influence on its expression than the local regulatory elements of neighboring endogenous genes, suggesting that intra-chromosomal variation in the strength of dosage compensation is a major determinant of sex-biased gene expression. Average levels of sex-biased expression did not differ between head and brain, but there was greater positional effect variation in the brain, which may explain the observed excess of endogenous sex-biased genes located on the X chromosome in this tissue.

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