Sex-biased transcriptome divergence along a latitudinal gradient.
Change in gene expression is a major facilitator of phenotypic evolution. Understanding the evolutionary potential of gene expression requires taking into account complex systems of regulatory networks, the structure of which could potentially bias evolutionary trajectories. We analyzed the evolutionary potential and divergence of multigene expression in three well-characterized signaling pathways in Drosophila, the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MapK), the Toll, and the insulin receptor/Foxo (InR/Foxo or InR/TOR) pathways in a multivariate quantitative genetic framework. Gene expression data from a natural population of D. melanogaster were used to estimate the genetic variance-covariance matrices (G) for each network. Although most genes within each pathway exhibited significant genetic variance, the number of independent dimensions of multivariate genetic variance was fewer than the number of genes analyzed. However, for expression, the reduction in dimensionality was not as large as seen for other trait types such as morphology. We then tested whether gene expression divergence between D. melanogaster and an additional six species of the Drosophila genus was biased along the major axes of standing variation observed in D. melanogaster. In many cases, divergence was restricted to directions of phenotypic space harboring above average levels of genetic variance in D. melanogaster, indicating that genetic covariances between genes within pathways have biased interspecific divergence. We tested whether co-expression of genes in both sexes has also biased the pattern of divergence. Including cross-sex genetic covariances increased the degree to which divergence was biased along major axes of genetic variance, suggesting that the co-expression of genes in males and females can generate further constraints on divergence across the Drosophila phylogeny. In contrast to patterns seen for morphological traits in vertebrates, transcriptional constraints do not appear to break down as divergence time between species increases, instead they persist over tens of millions of years of divergence.