Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Mainz have identified a protein essential for initiating the development of male sex organs. Loss of the gene Gadd45g results in complete sex reversal of male mice, making them appear female. The researchers' finding uncovers a novel signaling cascade, which acts early in development to determine the gonads in males. This discovery sheds light on the genetic network that controls how embryos develop as males or females. The research has just been published in the high-impact journal Developmental Cell.
Research carried out in the laboratory of IMB Director Professor Christof Niehrs uncovered that the deletion of just one gene, Gadd45g, results in male mice with external genitalia that are indistinguishable from those of female mice. Furthermore, the internal reproductive organs of the mutant male mice look like those of females, indicating that a complete sex reversal has occurred. Says Christof Niehrs, "when breeding Gadd45g mutant mice we were puzzled why we got only females, until we discovered that some of these females actually carry a Y-chromosome."
The researchers further showed that Gadd45g exerts its effect by regulating signaling cascades that control the gene Sry, which had previously shown to be a master regulator of male sex development. This study both identifies a new role for Gadd45g and suggests a novel signaling pathway that could have important implications for research into disorders of sexual development.
For male sex organs to develop correctly, it is essential that the gene Sry is expressed at high levels within a very narrow timeframe in the embryo. The group of Christof Niehrs has now shown that Gadd45g is expressed in a pattern highly similar to that of Sry. The Gadd45g gene is, however, active just before Sry is turned on. Importantly, in mice lacking Gadd45g, the Sry gene is not expressed correctly. This indicates that Gadd45g controls the expression of this master regulator and, in turn, male development.
The scientists also provide a possible mechanism by which Gadd45g regulates Sry. Their model suggests that Gadd45g binds to and activates key signaling proteins, such as p38, which activate the transcription factor Gata4. When active, this factor binds to and activates the Sry gene. Similar results are co-published in the same issue of Developmental Cell by the group of Andy Greenfield in the UK. "As outsiders to the field of sex determination we were surprised by how little was known about the regulation of Sry on the molecular level. Our work is a leap forward in the understanding of this fundamental process", says Niehrs.
Mathias S Gierl, Wolfram H Gruhn, Annika von Seggern, Nicole Maltry and Christof Niehrs (2012). Gadd45g functions in male sex determination by promoting p38 signaling and Sry expression. Developmental Cell 23(5):1032-42
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz: http://www.uni-mainz.de
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A species of clownfish has been shown to grow bigger in warmer conditions, suggesting that some animals may benefit from global warming
The first ever trial of reprogrammed stem cells is put on hold while scientists investigate whether the procedure caused a potentially cancerous mutation
Researchers were amazed to see a wild polar bear stay under the water for so long while stalking its next meal
Study is one of first to track where in the ocean predators pick up different chemicals
When amnesia strikes, people can forget everything about their life, including their name. But what causes memory loss? And what happens to people who lose themselves for an hour, a few months – or even for ever?
Tooth unearthed by 20-year-old volunteer hailed as major discovery by paleoanthropologist overseeing dig at Arago cave near Tautavel
Autistic children are just as good at reading emotions from the body as those without – they just don't like the closeness that interpreting emotions from faces requires
Individual cells can be made to act like tiny lasers, offering a more accurate way to tag and monitor tumour cells, for example
If you want to know the secret behind the success of Tyrannosaurus rex and its meat-eating dinosaur cousins, look no further than their teeth.
A recent article argued that sexuality is down to choice, not genetics. But the scientific evidence says otherwise, and points to a strong biological origin