Sex determination in mammals and birds is chromosomal, while in many reptiles sex determination is temperature dependent. Morphological development of the gonads in these systems is conserved, suggesting that many of the genes involved in gonad development are also conserved. The genes SF1, WT1 and DAX1 play various roles in the mammalian testis-determining pathway. SF1 and WT1 are thought to interact to cause male-specific gene expression during testis development, while DAX1 is believed to inhibit this male- specific gene expression. We have cloned SF1 and DAX1 from the American alligator, a species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). SF1, DAX1 and WT1 are expressed in the urogenital system/gonad throughout the period of alligator gonadogenesis which is temperature sensitive. SF1 appears to be expressed at a higher level in females than in males. This SF1 expression pattern is concordant with the observed pattern during chicken gonadogenesis, but opposite to that observed during mouse gonadogenesis. Although the observed sexual dimorphism of gonadal SF1 expression in alligators and chickens is opposite that observed in the mouse, it is probable that SF1 is involved in control of gonadal steroidogenesis in all these vertebrates. DAX1 and WT1 are both expressed during stages 22-25 of both males and females. However, there appear to be no sex differences in the expression patterns of these genes. We conclude that DAX1, WT1 and SF1 may be involved in gonadal development of the alligator. These genes may form part of a gonadal-development pathway which has been conserved through vertebrate evolution.
- Temperature-dependent sex determination