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Dev Biol. 2007 Feb 1;302(1):132-42. Epub 2006 Sep 9.

Mechanisms of gonadal morphogenesis are not conserved between chick and mouse.

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Division of Developmental Genetics, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London, UK.


To understand mechanisms of sex determination, it is important to know the lineage relationships of cells comprising the gonads. For example, in mice, the Y-linked gene Sry triggers differentiation of Sertoli cells from a cell population originating in the coelomic epithelium overlying the nascent gonad that also gives rise to uncharacterised interstitial cells. In contrast, little is known about origins of somatic cell types in the chick testis, where there is no Sry gene and sex determination depends on a ZZ male/ZW female mechanism. To investigate this, we performed fate mapping experiments in ovo, labelling at indifferent stages the coelomic epithelium by electroporation with a lacZ reporter gene and the underlying nephrogenous (or mesonephric) mesenchyme with chemical dyes. After sex differentiation, LacZ-positive cells were exclusively outside testis cords and were 3betaHSD-negative, indicating that the coelomic epithelium contributes only to non-steroidogenic interstitial cells. However, we detected dye-labelled cells both inside and outside the cords. The former were AMH-positive while some of the latter were 3betaHSD-positive, showing that nephrogenous mesenchyme contributes to both Sertoli cells and steroidogenic cells. This is the first demonstration via lineage analysis that steroidogenic cells originate from nephrogenous mesenchyme, but the revelation that Sertoli cells have different origins between chick and mouse suggests that, during evolution, mechanisms of gonad morphogenesis may diverge alongside those of sex determination.

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