Genomic analysis of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) reveals possible conservation of vertebrate sex determination in a mollusc.
ABSTRACT: Despite the prevalence of sex in animal kingdom, we have only limited understanding of how sex is determined and evolved in many taxa. The mollusc Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas exhibits complex modes of sexual reproduction that consists of protandric dioecy, sex change, and occasional hermaphroditism. This complex system is controlled by both environmental and genetic factors through unknown molecular mechanisms. In this study, we investigated genes related to sex-determining pathways in C. gigas through transcriptome sequencing and analysis of female and male gonads. Our analysis identified or confirmed novel homologs in the oyster of key sex-determining genes (SoxH or Sry-like and FoxL2) that were thought to be vertebrate-specific. Their expression profile in C. gigas is consistent with conserved roles in sex determination, under a proposed model where a novel testis-determining CgSoxH may serve as a primary regulator, directly or indirectly interacting with a testis-promoting CgDsx and an ovary-promoting CgFoxL2. Our findings plus previous results suggest that key vertebrate sex-determining genes such as Sry and FoxL2 may not be inventions of vertebrates. The presence of such genes in a mollusc with expression profiles consistent with expected roles in sex determination suggest that sex determination may be deeply conserved in animals, despite rapid evolution of the regulatory pathways that in C. gigas may involve both genetic and environmental factors.
Project description:Sex in mammals is determined in the fetal gonad by the presence or absence of the Y chromosome gene Sry, which controls whether bipotential precursor cells differentiate into testicular Sertoli cells or ovarian granulosa cells. This pivotal decision in a single gonadal cell type ultimately controls sexual differentiation throughout the body. Sex determination can be viewed as a battle for primacy in the fetal gonad between a male regulatory gene network in which Sry activates Sox9 and a female network involving WNT/?-catenin signalling. In females the primary sex-determining decision is not final: loss of the FOXL2 transcription factor in adult granulosa cells can reprogram granulosa cells into Sertoli cells. Here we show that sexual fate is also surprisingly labile in the testis: loss of the DMRT1 transcription factor in mouse Sertoli cells, even in adults, activates Foxl2 and reprograms Sertoli cells into granulosa cells. In this environment, theca cells form, oestrogen is produced and germ cells appear feminized. Thus Dmrt1 is essential to maintain mammalian testis determination, and competing regulatory networks maintain gonadal sex long after the fetal choice between male and female. Dmrt1 and Foxl2 are conserved throughout vertebrates and Dmrt1-related sexual regulators are conserved throughout metazoans. Antagonism between Dmrt1 and Foxl2 for control of gonadal sex may therefore extend beyond mammals. Reprogramming due to loss of Dmrt1 also may help explain the aetiology of human syndromes linked to DMRT1, including disorders of sexual differentiation and testicular cancer.
Project description:Mammalian sex determination is controlled by the antagonistic interactions of two genetic pathways: The SRY-SOX9-FGF9 network promotes testis determination partly by opposing proovarian pathways, while RSPO1/WNT-?-catenin/FOXL2 signals control ovary development by inhibiting SRY-SOX9-FGF9. The molecular basis of this mutual antagonism is unclear. Here we show that ZNRF3, a WNT signaling antagonist and direct target of RSPO1-mediated inhibition, is required for sex determination in mice. XY mice lacking ZNRF3 exhibit complete or partial gonadal sex reversal, or related defects. These abnormalities are associated with ectopic WNT/?-catenin activity and reduced <i>Sox9</i> expression during fetal sex determination. Using exome sequencing of individuals with 46,XY disorders of sex development, we identified three human <i>ZNRF3</i> variants in very rare cases of XY female presentation. We tested two missense variants and show that these disrupt ZNRF3 activity in both human cell lines and zebrafish embryo assays. Our data identify a testis-determining function for ZNRF3 and indicate a mechanism of direct molecular interaction between two mutually antagonistic organogenetic pathways.
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:The diverse modes of sexual reproduction in Bivalvia make it an excellent clade to understand the evolution of sex and sex determination. The cosmopolitan Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas is an ideal model for bivalve sex determination studies because of its complicated sexuality, including dioecy, sex change and rare hermaphroditism. A major barrier to C. gigas sex determination study has been the lack of information on the type of sex determination. To identify its sex-determining system, sex observation by following the same individual in two consecutive years was conducted on 760 oysters from distinct populations. Stable sexuality and sex reversal in both directions were observed, which provides a case against the protandry of C. gigas. Restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) based on 26 samples with unchanged and converted sexualities was carried out for identifying sex-linked marker. One SNP Cgsl-40 was proved to be sex-related, but sex-biased heterozygosity varied between populations for RAD-seq and validation, showing no evidence for sex chromosomes or single-locus models for C. gigas primary sex determination. Information obtained in our study provides novel insight into sex determination mechanism in C. gigas.
Project description:Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) provides an excellent model for studying epigenomic reprogramming during mammalian development. We mapped the whole genome and whole methylome for potential anomalies of mutations or epimutations in SCNT-generated dogs with XY chromosomal sex but complete gonadal dysgenesis, which is classified as 78, XY disorder of sex development (DSD). Whole genome sequencing revealed no potential genomic variations that could explain the pathogenesis of DSD. However, extensive but stochastic anomalies of genome-wide DNA methylation were discovered in these SCNT DSD dogs. Persistent abnormal hypermethylation of the SRY gene was observed together with its down-regulated mRNA and protein expression. Failure of SRY expression due to hypermethylation was further correlated with silencing of a serial of testis determining genes, including SOX9, SF1, SOX8, AMH and DMRT1 in an early embryonic development stage at E34 in the XY(DSD) gonad, and high activation of the female specific genes, including FOXL2, RSPO1, CYP19A1, WNT4, ER? and ER?, after one postnatal year in the ovotestis. Our results demonstrate that incomplete demethylation on the SRY gene is the driving cause of XY(DSD) in these XY DSD dogs, indicating a central role of epigenetic regulation in sex determination.
Project description:Sertoli and granulosa cells are two major types of somatic cells in male and female gonads, respectively. Previous studies have shown that Sertoli and granulosa cells are derived from common progenitor cells and that differentiation of these two cell types is regulated by sex differentiation genes. The signaling pathway including the adhesion and transcription factor Ctnnb1 (cadherin-associated protein, ?1, also known as ?-catenin) regulates differentiation of granulosa cells in the absence of the transcription factor Sry, and overactivation of ?-catenin in the presence of Sry leads to granulosa prior to sex determination. Surprisingly, our previous study found that ?-catenin overactivation in Sertoli cells after sex determination can also cause disruption of the testicular cord and aberrant testis development. However, the underlying molecular mechanism was unclear. In this study, we found that constitutive activation of Ctnnb1 in Sertoli cells led to ectopic expression of the granulosa cell-specific marker FOXL2 in testes. Co-staining experiments revealed that FOXL2-positive cells were derived from Sertoli cells, and Sertoli cells were transformed into granulosa-like cells after Ctnnb1 overactivation. Further studies demonstrated that CTNNB1 induced Foxl2 expression by directly binding to transcription factor Tcf/Lef-binding sites in the FOXL2 promoter region. We also found that direct overexpression of Foxl2 decreased the expression of Sertoli cell-specific genes in primary Sertoli cells. Taken together, these results demonstrate that repression of ?-catenin (CTNNB1) signaling is required for lineage maintenance of Sertoli cells. Our study provides a new mechanism for Sertoli cell lineage maintenance during gonad development.
Project description:A critical transcription factor required for mammalian male sex determination is SRY (sex determining region on the Y chromosome). The expression of SRY in precursor Sertoli cells is one of the initial events in testis development. The current study was designed to determine the impact of environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance on SRY binding during gonadal sex determination in the male. The agricultural fungicide vinclozolin and vehicle control (DMSO) exposed gestating females (F0 generation) during gonadal sex determination promoted the transgenerational inheritance of differential DNA methylation in sperm of the F3 generation (great grand-offspring). The fetal gonads in F3 generation males were used to identify potential alterations in SRY binding sites in the developing Sertoli cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation with an SRY antibody followed by genome-wide promoter tiling array (ChIP-Chip) was used to identify alterations in SRY binding. A total of 81 adjacent oligonucleotide sites and 173 single oligo SRY binding sites were identified to be altered transgenerationally in the Sertoli cell vinclozolin lineage F3 generation males. Observations demonstrate the majority of the previously identified normal SRY binding sites were not altered and the altered SRY binding sites were novel and new additional sites. The chromosomal locations, gene associations and potentially modified cellular pathways were investigated. In summary, environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of germline epimutations appears to alter the cellular differentiation and development of the precursor Sertoli cell SRY binding during gonadal sex determination that influence the developmental origins of adult onset testis disease.
Project description:A major event in mammalian male sex determination is the induction of the testis determining factor Sry and its downstream gene Sox9. The current study provides one of the first genome wide analyses of the downstream gene binding targets for SRY and SOX9 to help elucidate the molecular control of Sertoli cell differentiation and testis development. A modified ChIP-Chip analysis using a comparative hybridization was used to identify 71 direct downstream binding targets for SRY and 109 binding targets for SOX9. Interestingly, only 5 gene targets overlapped between SRY and SOX9. In addition to the direct response element binding gene targets, a large number of atypical binding gene targets were identified for both SRY and SOX9. Bioinformatic analysis of the downstream binding targets identified gene networks and cellular pathways potentially involved in the induction of Sertoli cell differentiation and testis development. The specific DNA sequence binding site motifs for both SRY and SOX9 were identified. Observations provide insights into the molecular control of male gonadal sex determination.
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: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).