Novel markers of early ovarian pre-granulosa cells are expressed in an Sry-like pattern.
ABSTRACT: Mammalian gonad differentiation involves sexually dimorphic cell-fate decisions within the bipotential gonadal primordia. Testis differentiation is initiated by a center-to-poles wave of Sry expression that induces supporting cell precursors (SCPs) to become Sertoli rather than granulosa cells. The initiation of ovary differentiation is less well understood. We identified two novel SCP markers, 1700106J16Rik and Sprr2d, whose expression is ovary-biased during early gonad development, and altered in Wnt4, Sf1, Wt1, and Fog2 mutant gonads. In XX and XY gonads, both genes were up-regulated at approximately E11 in a center-to-poles wave, and then rapidly down-regulated in XY gonads in a center-to-poles wave, which is reminiscent of Sry expression in XY gonads. Our data suggest that 1700106J16Rik and Sprr2d may have important roles in early gonad development, and are consistent with the hypothesis that ovarian SCP differentiation occurs in a center-to-poles wave with similar timing to that of testicular SCP differentiation.
Project description:In humans and most mammals, differentiation of the embryonic gonad into ovaries or testes is controlled by the Y-linked gene SRY. Here we show a role for the Gadd45g protein in this primary sex differentiation. We characterized mice deficient in Gadd45a, Gadd45b and Gadd45g, as well as double-knockout mice for Gadd45ab, Gadd45ag and Gadd45bg, and found a specific role for Gadd45g in male fertility and testis development. Gadd45g-deficient XY mice on a mixed 129/C57BL/6 background showed varying degrees of disorders of sexual development (DSD), ranging from male infertility to an intersex phenotype or complete gonadal dysgenesis (CGD). On a pure C57BL/6 (B6) background, all Gadd45g(-/-) XY mice were born as completely sex-reversed XY-females, whereas lack of Gadd45a and/or Gadd45b did not affect primary sex determination or testis development. Gadd45g expression was similar in female and male embryonic gonads, and peaked around the time of sex differentiation at 11.5 days post-coitum (dpc). The molecular cause of the sex reversal was the failure of Gadd45g(-/-) XY gonads to achieve the SRY expression threshold necessary for testes differentiation, resulting in ovary and Müllerian duct development. These results identify Gadd45g as a candidate gene for male infertility and 46,XY sex reversal in humans.
Project description:The transcription factors SRY and SOX9 and RSPO1/WNT4/?-Catenin signaling act as antagonistic pathways to drive testis and ovary development respectively, from a common gonadal primordium in mouse embryos. In this work, we took advantage of a double knockout mouse model to study gonadal development when Sox9 and Wnt4 are both mutated. We show that the XX gonad mutant for Wnt4 or for both Wnt4 and Sox9 develop as ovotestes, demonstrating that ectopic SOX9 function is not required for the partial female-to-male sex reversal caused by a Wnt4 mutation. Sox9 deletion in XY gonads leads to ovarian development accompanied by ectopic WNT/?-catenin signaling. In XY Sox9 mutant gonads, SRY-positive supporting precursors adopt a female-like identity and develop as pre-granulosa-like cells. This phenotype cannot be fully prevented by the deletion of Wnt4 or Rspo1, indicating that SOX9 is required for the early determination of the male supporting cell identity independently of repressing RSPO1/WNT4/?-Catenin signaling. However, in XY Sox9 Wnt4 double mutant gonads, pre-granulosa cells are not maintained, as they prematurely differentiate as mature granulosa cells and then trans-differentiate into Sertoli-like cells. Together, our results reveal the dynamics of the specific and independent actions of SOX9 and WNT4 during gonadal differentiation: SOX9 is essential in the testis for early specification of male-supporting cells whereas WNT4 functions in the ovary to maintain female-supporting cell identity and inhibit male-specific vascular and steroidogenic cell differentiation.
Project description:Sex-reversal cases in humans and genetic models in mice have revealed that the fate of the bipotential gonad hinges upon the balance between pro-testis SOX9 and pro-ovary beta-catenin pathways. Our central query was: if SOX9 and beta-catenin define the gonad's identity, then what do the gonads become when both factors are absent? To answer this question, we developed mouse models that lack either Sox9, beta-catenin, or both in the somatic cells of the fetal gonads and examined the morphological outcomes and transcriptome profiles. In the absence of Sox9 and beta-catenin, both XX and XY gonads progressively lean toward the testis fate, indicating that expression of certain pro-testis genes requires the repression of the beta-catenin pathway, rather than a direct activation by SOX9. We also observed that XY double knockout gonads were more masculinized than their XX counterpart. To identify the genes responsible for the initial events of masculinization and to determine how the genetic context (XX vs. XY) affects this process, we compared the transcriptomes of Sox9/beta-catenin mutant gonads and found that early molecular changes underlying the XY-specific masculinization involve the expression of Sry and 21 SRY direct target genes, such as Sox8 and Cyp26b1. These results imply that when both Sox9 and beta-catenin are absent, Sry is capable of activating other pro-testis genes and drive testis differentiation. Our findings not only provide insight into the mechanism of sex determination, but also identify candidate genes that are potentially involved in disorders of sex development.
Project description:CREB-binding protein (CBP, CREBBP, KAT3A) and its closely related paralogue p300 (EP300, KAT3B), together termed p300/CBP, are histone/lysine acetyl-transferases that control gene expression by modifying chromatin-associated proteins. Here, we report roles for both of these chromatin-modifying enzymes in mouse sex determination, the process by which the embryonic gonad develops into a testis or an ovary. By targeting gene ablation to embryonic gonadal somatic cells using an inducible Cre line, we show that gonads lacking either gene exhibit major abnormalities of XY gonad development at 14.5 dpc, including partial sex reversal. Embryos lacking three out of four functional copies of p300/Cbp exhibit complete XY gonadal sex reversal and have greatly reduced expression of the key testis-determining genes Sry and Sox9. An analysis of histone acetylation at the Sry promoter in mutant gonads at 11.5 dpc shows a reduction in levels of the positive histone mark H3K27Ac. Our data suggest a role for CBP/p300 in testis determination mediated by control of histone acetylation at the Sry locus and reveal a novel element in the epigenetic control of Sry and mammalian sex determination. They also suggest possible novel causes of human disorders of sex development (DSD).
Project description:The rabbit is an attractive species for the study of gonad differentiation because of its 31-day long gestation, the timing of female meiosis around birth and the 15-day delay between gonadal switch and the onset of meiosis in the female. The expression of a series of genes was thus determined by qPCR during foetal life until adulthood, completed by a histological analysis and whenever possible by an immunohistological one. Interesting gene expression profiles were recorded. Firstly, the peak of SRY gene expression that is observed in early differentiated XY gonads in numerous mammals was also seen in the rabbit, but this expression was maintained at a high level until the end of puberty. Secondly, a peak of aromatase gene expression was observed at two-thirds of the gestation in XX gonads as in many other species except in the mouse. Thirdly, the expression of STRA8 and DMC1 genes (which are known to be specifically expressed in germ cells during meiosis) was enhanced in XX gonads around birth but also slightly and significantly in XY gonads at the same time, even though no meiosis occurs in XY gonad at this stage. This was probably a consequence of the synchronous strong NANOS2 gene expression in XY gonad. In conclusion, our data highlighted some rabbit-specific findings with respect to the gonad differentiation process.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Hormones are critical for early gonadal development in nonmammalian vertebrates, and oestrogen is required for normal ovarian development. In contrast, mammals determine sex by the presence or absence of the SRY gene, and hormones are not thought to play a role in early gonadal development. Despite an XY sex-determining system in marsupial mammals, exposure to oestrogen can override SRY and induce ovarian development of XY gonads if administered early enough. Here we assess the effect of exogenous oestrogen on the molecular pathways of mammalian gonadal development. RESULTS: We examined the expression of key testicular (SRY, SOX9, AMH and FGF9) and ovarian (WNT4, RSPO1, FOXL2 and FST) markers during gonadal development in the marsupial tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) and used these data to determine the effect of oestrogen exposure on gonadal fate. During normal development, we observed male specific upregulation of AMH and SOX9 as in the mouse and human testis, but this upregulation was initiated before the peak in SRY expression and 4 days before testicular cord formation. Similarly, key genes for ovarian development in mouse and human were also upregulated during ovarian differentiation in the tammar. In particular, there was early sexually dimorphic expression of FOXL2 and WNT4, suggesting that these genes are key regulators of ovarian development in all therian mammals. We next examined the effect of exogenous oestrogen on the development of the mammalian XY gonad. Despite the presence of SRY, exogenous oestrogen blocked the key male transcription factor SOX9 from entering the nuclei of male somatic cells, preventing activation of the testicular pathway and permitting upregulation of key female genes, resulting in ovarian development of the XY gonad. CONCLUSIONS: We have uncovered a mechanism by which oestrogen can regulate gonadal development through the nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of SOX9. This may represent an underlying ancestral mechanism by which oestrogen promotes ovarian development in the gonads of nonmammalian vertebrates. Furthermore, oestrogen may retain this function in adult female mammals to maintain granulosa cell fate in the differentiated ovary by suppressing nuclear translocation of the SOX9 protein. See commentary: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/110.
Project description:The genes encoding members of the wingless-related MMTV integration site (WNT) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) families coordinate growth, morphogenesis, and differentiation in many fields of cells during development. In the mouse, Fgf9 and Wnt4 are expressed in gonads of both sexes prior to sex determination. Loss of Fgf9 leads to XY sex reversal, whereas loss of Wnt4 results in partial testis development in XX gonads. However, the relationship between these signals and the male sex-determining gene, Sry, was unknown. We show through gain- and loss-of-function experiments that fibroblast growth factor 9 (FGF9) and WNT4 act as opposing signals to regulate sex determination. In the mouse XY gonad, Sry normally initiates a feed-forward loop between Sox9 and Fgf9, which up-regulates Fgf9 and represses Wnt4 to establish the testis pathway. Surprisingly, loss of Wnt4 in XX gonads is sufficient to up-regulate Fgf9 and Sox9 in the absence of Sry. These data suggest that the fate of the gonad is controlled by antagonism between Fgf9 and Wnt4. The role of the male sex-determining switch--Sry in the case of mammals--is to tip the balance between these underlying patterning signals. In principle, sex determination in other vertebrates may operate through any switch that introduces an imbalance between these two signaling pathways.
Project description:Sex determination in mammals is controlled by the presence or absence of the Y-linked gene SRY. In the developing male (XY) gonad, sex-determining region of the Y (SRY) protein acts to up-regulate expression of the related gene, SOX9, a transcriptional regulator that in turn initiates a downstream pathway of testis development, whilst also suppressing ovary development. Despite the requirement for a number of transcription factors and secreted signalling molecules in sex determination, intracellular signalling components functioning in this process have not been defined. Here we report a role for the phylogenetically ancient mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathway in mouse sex determination. Using a forward genetic screen, we identified the recessive boygirl (byg) mutation. On the C57BL/6J background, embryos homozygous for byg exhibit consistent XY gonadal sex reversal. The byg mutation is an A to T transversion causing a premature stop codon in the gene encoding MAP3K4 (also known as MEKK4), a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase. Analysis of XY byg/byg gonads at 11.5 d post coitum reveals a growth deficit and a failure to support mesonephric cell migration, both early cellular processes normally associated with testis development. Expression analysis of mutant XY gonads at the same stage also reveals a dramatic reduction in Sox9 and, crucially, Sry at the transcript and protein levels. Moreover, we describe experiments showing the presence of activated MKK4, a direct target of MAP3K4, and activated p38 in the coelomic region of the XY gonad at 11.5 d post coitum, establishing a link between MAPK signalling in proliferating gonadal somatic cells and regulation of Sry expression. Finally, we provide evidence that haploinsufficiency for Map3k4 accounts for T-associated sex reversal (Tas). These data demonstrate that MAP3K4-dependent signalling events are required for normal expression of Sry during testis development, and create a novel entry point into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying sex determination in mice and disorders of sexual development in humans.
Project description:Ovotestis development in B6-XY(POS) mice provides a rare opportunity to study the interaction of the testis- and ovary-determining pathways in the same tissue. We studied expression of several markers of mouse fetal testis (SRY, SOX9) or ovary (FOXL2, Rspo1) development in B6-XY(POS) ovotestes by immunofluorescence, using normal testes and ovaries as controls. In ovotestes, SOX9 was expressed only in the central region where SRY is expressed earliest, resulting in testis cord formation. Surprisingly, FOXL2-expressing cells also were found in this region, but individual cells expressed either FOXL2 or SOX9, not both. At the poles, even though SOX9 was not up-regulated, SRY expression was down-regulated normally as in XY testes, and FOXL2 was expressed from an early stage, demonstrating ovarian differentiation in these areas. Our data (1) show that SRY must act within a specific developmental window to activate Sox9; (2) challenge the established view that SOX9 is responsible for down-regulating Sry expression; (3) disprove the concept that testicular and ovarian cells occupy discrete domains in ovotestes; and (4) suggest that FOXL2 is actively suppressed in Sertoli cell precursors by the action of SOX9. Together these findings provide important new insights into the molecular regulation of testis and ovary development.
Project description:XX and XY fetal gonads are initially bipotential, poised between the ovary and testis fate. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that commitment to testis fate requires the repression of genes associated with ovary fate. It was previously shown that loss of CBX2, the subunit of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1) that binds H3K27me3 and mediates silencing, leads to ovary development in XY mice and humans. While it had been proposed that CBX2 is an activator of the testis-determining gene Sry, we investigated the alternative possibility that CBX2 has a direct role as a repressor of the antagonistic ovary-promoting pathway. To investigate this possibility, we developed a quantitative genome-wide profile of the repressive histone mark H3K27me3 and its active counterpart H3K4me3 in isolated XY and XX gonadal supporting cells before and after sex determination. We show that testis and ovary sex-determining (SD) genes are bivalent before sex determination, providing insight into how the bipotential state of the gonad is established at the epigenetic level. After sex determination, many SD genes of the alternate pathway remain bivalent, possibly contributing to the ability of these cells to transdifferentiate even in adults. The finding that many genes in the Wnt signaling pathway were targeted for H3K27me3-mediated repression in Sertoli cells led us to test whether deletion of Wnt4 could rescue testis development in Cbx2 mutants. We show that Sry expression and testis development were rescued in XY Cbx2-/-;Wnt4-/- mice. Furthermore, we show that CBX2 directly binds the downstream Wnt signaler Lef1, an ovary-promoting gene that remains bivalent in Sertoli cells. Our results suggest that stabilization of the testis fate requires CBX2-mediated repression of bivalent ovary-determining genes, which would otherwise block testis development.