Wnt4 action in gonadal development and sex determination

Pascal Bernard, Vincent R. Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Wnt4 is a growth factor involved in multiple developmental processes such as the formation of the kidney, adrenal, mammary gland, pituitary and the female reproductive system. During mammalian embryogenesis, Wnt4 is expressed in the gonads of both sexes before sex determination events take place and is subsequently down-regulated in the male gonad. Inactivation of the Wnt4 gene in mice has revealed that it is involved at several steps of female reproductive development. Wnt4 is implicated in Müllerian duct regression, the formation of sex-specific vasculature, the inhibition of steroidogenesis and in sex-specific cell migration events. A mouse model of sex-reversal has partially unravelled the molecular pathways in which Wnt4 operates during the development of the female reproductive system. However, the specific molecular mechanism of action of Wnt4 during gonadal development remains unknown. This and downstream signaling pathways involved in Wnt4 action during female gonad development are reviewed and models of Wnt4 action are proposed for Müllerian duct formation, sex-specific vasculature development, and sex determination events. Further identification of critical downstream effectors of the Wnt4 signaling pathway in mouse models and in patients with sex-reversal conditions could help in understanding sex-reversal pathologies in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Fgf9
  • Sex determination
  • Sox9
  • Wnt signaling
  • Wnt4

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