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Dev Biol. 2011 Jan 1;349(1):65-77. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.10.006. Epub 2010 Oct 19.

Transient development of ovotestes in XX Sox9 transgenic mice.

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INSERM, U636, F-06108 Nice, France.


The sex of an individual results from the paternal transmission of the SRY gene located on the Y chromosome. In turn, SRY initiates Sox9 expression, a transcription factor required for testicular differentiation. Ectopic activation of SOX9 in XX Wt1:Sox9 transgenic mice induces female-to-male sex reversal in adult mice. Here we show that complete sex reversal is preceded by a transient phase of ovotestis differentiation with XX Wt1:Sox9 transgenic gonads containing a testicular central region and one or both ovarian poles indicating that Wt1:Sox9 is not as efficient as Sry to induce male development. In XX Wt1:Sox9(Tg/+) gonads, transgenic Sox9 is expressed earlier than Sox9 in XY gonads and is able to induce the expression of EGFP, knocked into the 3' UTR of Sox9 indicating that SOX9 is involved in the initiation and maintenance of its own expression. However, the delayed onset of expression of endogenous Sox9-EGFP suggests that this activation requires other factors, whose expression depends on SOX9. In the testicular regions of the XX Wt1:Sox9 ovotestes, proliferation of the XX fetal germ cells is hampered and they differentiate as pro-spermatogonia. This indicates that XX germ cells are not competent to respond to proliferative signals released from a testicular environment. In the ovarian regions, despite the continuous mRNA expression of the WT1:Sox9 transgene, the SOX9 protein does not accumulate suggesting that regulation of this gene in ovarian cells involves post-transcriptional mechanisms. Finally, ovarian cells of the XX Wt1:Sox9 ovotestis undergo apoptosis during late embryogenesis leading to complete female-to-male sex reversal of the transgenic mice at birth.

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