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Zoolog Sci. 1996 Feb;13(1):1-13.

Temperature-dependent sex determination: the interplay of steroid hormones and temperature.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Texas at Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Sex determination is the product of coordinated gene expression. Mutational analyses have yielded great progress in our understanding of mammalian sex determination, and insight into the evolution of this sex chromosome system would be valuable. Mammals arose from turtle-like reptiles, and in many turtles the incubation temperature of the egg determines the sex of the offspring, a process known as temperature-dependent sex determination. There is mounting evidence that sex steroid hormones are the physiological equivalent of incubation temperature and serve as the proximate trigger for male and female sex determination. Temperature appears to accomplish this end by acting on genes coding for steroidogenic enzymes and sex steroid hormone receptors. The ability to manipulate sex determination in turtles both by temperature and by sex steroid hormones extends our understanding of the evolution as well as the physiology and molecular biology of sex determination.

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