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Mol Endocrinol. 2007 Nov;21(11):2750-63. Epub 2007 Aug 7.

Response of candidate sex-determining genes to changes in temperature reveals their involvement in the molecular network underlying temperature-dependent sex determination.

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Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.


Gonadogenesis, the process of forming an ovary or a testis from a bipotential gonad, is critical to the development of sexually reproducing adults. Although the molecular pathway underlying vertebrate gonadogenesis is well characterized in organisms exhibiting genotypic sex determination, it is less well understood in vertebrates whose sex is determined by environmental factors. We examine the response of six candidate sex-determining genes to sex-reversing temperature shifts in a species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). For the first time, we report the regulation of FoxL2, Wnt4, Dmrt1, and Mis by temperature, confirming their involvement in the molecular pathway underlying TSD and placing them downstream of the action of temperature. We find evidence that FoxL2 plays an ovarian-specific role in development, whereas Wnt4 appears to be involved in both testis and ovary formation. Dmrt1 expression shows rapid activation in response to a shift to male-producing temperature, whereas Mis up-regulation is delayed. Furthermore, early repression of Mis appears critical to ovarian development. We also investigate Dax1 and Sox9 and reveal that at the level of gene expression, response to temperature is comparatively later in gonadogenesis. By examining the role of these genes in TSD, we can begin to elucidate elements of conservation and divergence between sex-determining mechanisms.

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