Diverse regulation but conserved function: Sox9 in vertebrate sex determination

Brittany Vining, Zhenhua Ming, Stefan Bagheri-Fam, Vincent Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Sex determination occurs early during embryogenesis among vertebrates. It involves the differentiation of the bipotential gonad to ovaries or testes by a fascinating diversity of molecular switches. In most mammals, the switch is SRY (sex determining region Y); in other vertebrates it could be one of a variety of genes including Dmrt1 or dmy. Downstream of the switch gene, SOX9 upregulation is a central event in testes development, controlled by gonad-specific enhancers across the 2 Mb SOX9 locus. SOX9 is a ‘hub’ gene of gonadal development, regulated positively in males and negatively in females. Despite this diversity, SOX9 protein sequence and function among vertebrates remains highly conserved. This article explores the cellular, morphological, and genetic mechanisms initiated by SOX9 for male gonad differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number486
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Evolution
  • Sex determination
  • SOX9
  • Transcription factor
  • Transdifferentiation

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