Current concepts in evolutionary medicine propose that trade-offs and mismatches with a shifting environment increase disease risk. While biological sex also impacts disease prevalence, contributions of environmental pressures to sex-biased diseases remain unexplored. Here, we show that sex-dependent hepatic programs confer a robust (~300%) survival advantage for male mice during lethal bacterial infection. The transcription factor BCL6, which masculinizes hepatic gene expression at puberty, is essential for this advantage. However, protection by BCL6 comes at a cost following dietary excess, resulting in overt fatty liver and glucose intolerance in males. Deleting hepatic BCL6 reverses these phenotypes but markedly lowers male fitness during infection, thus establishing a sex-dependent tradeoff between host defense and metabolic systems. We suggest that these tradeoffs, coupled with current environmental pressures, drive metabolic disease in males.
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