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Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Jan-Feb;15(1):6-11.

Are XX and XY brain cells intrinsically different?

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  • 1Department of Physiological Science and Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology of the Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


In mammals and birds, the sex of the gonads is determined by genes on the sex chromosomes. For example, the mammalian Y-linked gene Sry causes testis differentiation. The testes then secrete testosterone, which acts on the brain (often after conversion to estradiol) to cause masculine patterns of development. If this were the only reason for sex differences in neural development, then XX and XY brain cells would have to be deemed otherwise equivalent. This equivalence is doubtful because of recent experimental results demonstrating that some XX and XY tissues, including the brain, are sexually dimorphic even when they develop in a similar endocrine environment. Although X and Y genes probably influence brain phenotype in a sex-specific manner, much more information is needed to identify the magnitude and character of these effects.

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