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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2015 Sep;45:59-67. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2015.10.021. Epub 2015 Oct 19.

Ovarian development and disease: The known and the unexpected.

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Department of Medicine, University of Fribourg, Chemin du Musée 5, CH-1700 Fribourg, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Institute of Biology Valrose, Université de Nice-Sophia, F-06108 Nice, France; Inserm, UMR1091, F-06108, France; CNRS, UMR7277, F-06108, France. Electronic address:


The idea that the female sexual development happens by default was born in the middle of the last century after Jost carried out his innovative experiments to study the bases of differentiation of the reproductive tract, and found that the female reproductive tract develops even in the absence of any gonad. The term default (passive) attributed to the whole female developmental pathway therefore established itself, even if it was not originally so intended. However, recent developments have demonstrated that ovarian development is an active process. WNT4, one of a few factors with a demonstrated function in the ovarian-determination pathway, has been found to be involved in sexual differentiation by suppressing male sexual differentiation, promoting Müllerian ducts differentiation and maintaining oocyte health. WNT4 expression in the ovary seems to be regulated by R-spondin 1 (RSPO1), a thrombospondin family member protein. The role and interactions of WNT4, RSPO1 and other factors, such as FOXL2 as well as the possible role of chromatin modifiers such as the polycomb protein CBX2 in ovarian development and function will be discussed.


Beta-catenin; CBX2; Differences/disorders of sex development; FOXL2; Gonadal development; R-spondin1; Sex reversal; WNT4

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