Evolutionary theory suggests that males and females may evolve sexually dimorphic phenotypic and biochemical traits concordant with each sex having different optimal strategies of resource investment to maximise reproductive success and fitness. Such sexual dimorphism would result in sex biased gene expression patterns in non-floral organs for autosomal genes associated with the control and development of such phenotypic traits.
We examined morphological, biochemical and herbivory traits to test for sexually dimorphic resource allocation strategies within collections of sexually mature and immature Populus tremula (European aspen) trees. In addition we profiled gene expression in mature leaves of sexually mature wild trees using whole-genome oligonucleotide microarrays and RNA-Sequencing.
We found no evidence of sexual dimorphism or differential resource investment strategies between males and females in either sexually immature or mature trees. Similarly, single-gene differential expression and machine learning approaches revealed no evidence of large-scale sex biased gene expression. However, two significantly differentially expressed genes were identified from the RNA-Seq data, one of which is a robust diagnostic marker of sex in P. tremula.
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