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Nature. 1998 Jun 18;393(6686):688-92.

Male-to-female sex reversal in M33 mutant mice.

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Mitsubishi Kasei Institute of Life Sciences, Machida, Tokyo, Japan.


Polycomb genes in Drosophila maintain the repressed state of homeotic and other developmentally regulated genes by mediating changes in higher-order chromatin structure. M33, a mouse homologue of Polycomb, was isolated by means of the structural similarity of its chromodomain. The fifth exon of M33 contains a region of homology shared by Drosophila and Xenopus. In Drosophila, its deletion results in the loss of Polycomb function. Here we have disrupted M33 in mice by inserting a poly(A) capture-type neo(r) targeting vector into its fifth exon. More than half of the resultant M33cterm/M33cterm mutant mice died before weaning, and survivors showed male-to-female sex reversal. Formation of genital ridges was retarded in both XX and XY M33cterm/M33cterm embryos. Gonadal growth defects appeared near the time of expression of the Y-chromosome-specific Sry gene, suggesting that M33 deficiency may cause sex reversal by interfering with steps upstream of Sry. M33cterm/M33cterm mice may be a valuable model in which to test opposing views regarding sex determination.

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