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Lessons from an unusual vertebrate sex-determining gene

Abstract : So far, very few sex-determining genes have been identified in vertebrates and most of them, the so-called ‘usual suspects’, evolved from genes which fulfil essential functions during sexual development and are thus already tightly linked to the process that they now govern. The single exception to this ‘usual suspects’ rule in vertebrates so far is the conserved salmonid sex-determining gene, sdY (sexually dimorphic on the Y chromosome), that evolved from a gene known to be involved in regulation of the immune response. It is contained in a jumping sex locus that has been transposed or translocated into different ancestral autosomes during the evolution of salmonids. This special feature of sdY , i.e. being inserted in a ‘jumping sex locus’, could explain how salmonid sex chromosomes remain young and undifferentiated to escape degeneration. Recent knowledge on the mechanism of action of sdY demonstrates that it triggers its sex-determining action by deregulating oestrogen synthesis that is a conserved and crucial pathway for ovarian differentiation in vertebrates. This result suggests that sdY has evolved to cope with a pre-existing sex differentiation regulatory network. Therefore, ‘limited options’ for the emergence of new master sex-determining genes could be more constrained by their need to tightly interact with a conserved sex differentiation regulatory network rather than by being themselves ‘usual suspects’, already inside this sex regulatory network. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Challenging the paradigm in sex chromosome evolution: empirical and theoretical insights with a focus on vertebrates (Part I)’.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03289913
Contributor : Amaury Herpin <>
Submitted on : Monday, July 19, 2021 - 9:43:57 AM
Last modification on : Friday, September 17, 2021 - 8:24:01 PM

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Sylvain Bertho, Amaury Herpin, Manfred Schartl, Yann Guiguen. Lessons from an unusual vertebrate sex-determining gene. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Royal Society, The, 2021, 376 (1832), pp.20200092. ⟨10.1098/rstb.2020.0092⟩. ⟨hal-03289913⟩

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