The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 40: 567 - 575 (1996)

Vol 40, Issue 3

Characterization of ovine SRY transcript and developmental expression of genes involved in sexual differentiation

Published: 1 June 1996

E Payen, E Pailhoux, R Abou Merhi, L Gianquinto, M Kirszenbaum, A Locatelli and C Cotinot

Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire et Moléculaire, INRA, Jouy en Josas, France.


In mammals, the presence of SRY, the sex-determining gene located on the Y chromosome is required to induce the gonadal anlage to differentiate as a testis, whereas its absence leads to the development of an ovary. We report here the characterization by 5' and 3' RACE analysis of several SRY transcripts which are expressed in the ovine male developing gonads. These transcripts were not detected in any other fetal tissues and were expressed only in the genital portion of the urogenital ridge. The temporal profile of SRY expression analyzed by RT-PCR suggests that in the sheep fetus the role of SRY is not limited to initiating Sertoli cell differentiation as in mice. Indeed, SRY transcripts persist after the full differentiation of the testis. In addition to SRY, other genes are known to be involved in mammalian sex determination: Wilms' tumor gene WT-1, steroidogenic factor gene Ftz-F1 (SF-1) and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH). We investigated the expression patterns of these genes by RT-PCR during fetal development in sheep gonads. Concerning WT-1 and SF-1, our results are consistent with those described in mice where the earliest expression was detected before the sexual differentiation in both sexes. In male, the ontogenesis of AMH transcription corresponds to the seminiferous cords formation (30 dpc). In female, we have observed the presence of SF-1 transcripts from the undifferentiated stage until birth. In addition, P450 aromatase expression is detected from 30 dpc and is correlated with the presence of 17-beta estradiol in sheep ovary. These data reveal significant differences between rodent and ruminant models concerning the sex-determining pathway.

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