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Sex Dev. 2016;10(4):167-184. Epub 2016 Sep 21.

Involvement of FOXL2 and RSPO1 in Ovarian Determination, Development, and Maintenance in Mammals.

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UMR BDR, INRA, ENVA, Université Paris Saclay, Jouy en Josas, France.


In mammals, sex determination is a process through which the gonad is committed to differentiate into a testis or an ovary. This process relies on a delicate balance between genetic pathways that promote one fate and inhibit the other. Once the gonad is committed to the female pathway, ovarian differentiation begins and, depending on the species, is completed during gestation or shortly after birth. During this step, granulosa cell precursors, steroidogenic cells, and primordial germ cells start to express female-specific markers in a sex-dimorphic manner. The germ cells then arrest at prophase I of meiosis and, together with somatic cells, assemble into functional structures. This organization gives the ovary its definitive morphology and functionality during folliculogenesis. Until now, 2 main genetic cascades have been shown to be involved in female sex differentiation. The first is driven by FOXL2, a transcription factor that also plays a crucial role in folliculogenesis and ovarian fate maintenance in adults. The other operates through the WNT/CTNNB1 canonical pathway and is regulated primarily by R-spondin1. Here, we discuss the roles of FOXL2 and RSPO1/WNT/ CTNNB1 during ovarian development and homeostasis in different models, such as humans, goats, and rodents.

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