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Genetics. 2004 Apr;166(4):1761-73.

The evolution of the Drosophila sex-determination pathway.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University College, London NW1 2HE, United Kingdom. ucbhpom@ucl.ac.uk


The molecular complexity of the Drosophila somatic sex-determination pathway poses formidable intellectual challenges for attempts to explain its evolutionary origins. Here we present a reconstruction of how this regulatory cascade might have evolved in a step-by-step fashion. We illustrate how mutations in genes, which were already part of the pathway or were recruited as new regulators of the pathway, were favored by sexual selection acting on the discriminatory sex-determining signal. This allows us to explain the major features of the pathway, including multiple promoter sites, alternative splicing patterns, autoregulation, and stop codons. Our hypothesis is built on the available data from Drosophila and other insect species, and we point out where it is amenable to further experimental and comparative tests.

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