Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans

Jennifer Ross Wolff, David A Zarkower

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The two sexes of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are the self-fertile hermaphrodite (essentially a female with a mixed germ line) and the male, and these differ extensively in anatomy, physiology, and behavior. At hatching, C. elegans larvae of each sex are nearly indistinguishable, differing mainly in the sex-specific death of a handful of neurons. After birth, however, a number of blast cells undergo radically different lineages and differentiation programs in the two sexes, leading to adults in which about one-third of cells are overtly dimorphic. The first C. elegans mutants causing discordance between genetic and phenotypic sex were isolated more than 30 years ago. Since then much progress has been made in uncovering the chromosomal elements and downstream regulatory pathways that control sex determination and sexual differentiation in the worm. The primary signal for sex determination is the ratio of X chromosomes to sets of autosomes, with hermaphrodites normally having two X chromosomes (XX) and males one (XO). The X:A signal is exquisitely dose-sensitive and operates via a group of X-linked regulators acting in opposition to a group of autosomal regulators that compete for the control of the master sex regulator xol-1. The activity of xol-1 coordinately regulates the formation of an active X chromosome dosage compensation complex and the activity of a sex determination regulatory cascade. The sex determination pathway globally controls all sexually dimorphic features by conferring sex specificity on downstream regulatory modules, largely via the action of TRA-1, a Ci/GLI family transcription factor with high activity in hermaphrodites and low activity in males. Much of this regulation involves the imposition of sex-specific activity on general developmental regulators in specific cell lineages. Recent work has answered long-standing questions about the molecular mechanisms controlling the sex determination pathway and shown that some C. elegans sexual regulators have counterparts regulating sexual development in other phyla.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSex Determination and Sexual Development
EditorsMark Doren
Pages1-39
Number of pages39
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 30 2008

Publication series

NameCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
Volume83
ISSN (Print)0070-2153

Fingerprint

Sex Differentiation
Caenorhabditis elegans
X Chromosome
Sexual Development
Cell Lineage
Germ Cells
Larva
Anatomy
Transcription Factors
Cell Count

Keywords

  • C. elegans
  • Dosage compensation
  • GLI
  • Hox
  • Sex determination
  • Sexual differentiation
  • Somatic
  • tra-1
  • xol-1

Cite this

Wolff, J. R., & Zarkower, D. A. (2008). Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans. In M. Doren (Ed.), Sex Determination and Sexual Development (pp. 1-39). (Current Topics in Developmental Biology; Vol. 83). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0070-2153(08)00401-8

Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans. / Wolff, Jennifer Ross; Zarkower, David A.

Sex Determination and Sexual Development. ed. / Mark Doren. 2008. p. 1-39 (Current Topics in Developmental Biology; Vol. 83).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Wolff, JR & Zarkower, DA 2008, Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans. in M Doren (ed.), Sex Determination and Sexual Development. Current Topics in Developmental Biology, vol. 83, pp. 1-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0070-2153(08)00401-8
Wolff JR, Zarkower DA. Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans. In Doren M, editor, Sex Determination and Sexual Development. 2008. p. 1-39. (Current Topics in Developmental Biology). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0070-2153(08)00401-8
Wolff, Jennifer Ross ; Zarkower, David A. / Chapter 1 Somatic Sexual Differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans. Sex Determination and Sexual Development. editor / Mark Doren. 2008. pp. 1-39 (Current Topics in Developmental Biology).
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