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Sex Dev. 2008;2(2):104-14. doi: 10.1159/000129695. Epub 2008 Jun 20.

Sexual development of the urodele amphibian Pleurodeles waltl.

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EA 3442 Aspects cellulaires et moléculaires de la reproduction et du développement, Nancy-Université, Nancy, France.


Pleurodeles waltl is a urodele amphibian that displays a ZZ/ZW genetic mode of sex determination involving a putative W-borne dominant determinant. This determining pathway can be environmentally inhibited since heat treated ZW larvae undergo a functional female to male sex reversal. Moreover, both genetic sexes can be reversed by treatment of larvae with steroid hormones suggesting they are the major players in the differentiation process. Indeed we demonstrated that i) aromatase expression and activity increase just before ovarian differentiation, ii) aromatase inhibitors induce a female to male sex reversal, iii) estrogens induce male to female sex reversal whereas the opposite is obtained with non-aromatizable androgens, iv) steroidogenic factor 1 and estrogen receptor alpha both display a female-enriched expression following the increase in aromatase activity. The role of endogenous hormones was investigated in a parabiosis model. Surprisingly, in ZW/ZZ associations, the ZW gonad could not differentiate suggesting that the ZZ parabiont produces an inhibiting factor, prior to ovarian differentiation. The role of AMH in this process is discussed, keeping in mind that Mullerian ducts are maintained in males. The development of antibodies and new molecular tools in the near future should help us to better understand the sexual development of this vertebrate.

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