Evidence for evolutionary conservation of sex-determining genes

C. S. Raymond, C. E. Shamu, M. M. Shen, K. J. Seifert, Betsy A Hirsch, J. Hodgkin, David A Zarkower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

655 Scopus citations


Most metazoans occur as two sexes. Surprisingly, molecular analyses have hitherto indicated that sex-determining mechanisms differ complety betweed phyla. Here we present evidence to the contrary. We have isolated the male sexual regulatory gene mab-3 (ref. 1) from the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and found that it is related to the Drosophila melanogaster sexual regulatory gene doublesex (dsx)2. Both genes encode proteins with a DNA- binding motif that we have name the 'DM domain'. Both genes control sex- specific neuroblast differentiation and yolk protein gene transcription; dsx controls other sexually dimorphic features as well the form of DSX that is found in males can direct male-specific neuroblast differentiation in C. elegans. This structural and functional similarity between phyla suggests a common evolutionary origin of at least some aspects of sexual regulation. We have identified a human gene, DMT1, that encodes a protein with a DM domain and find that DMT1 is expressed only in testis. DMT1 maps to the distal short arm of chromosome 9, a location implicated in human XY sex reversal. Proteins with DM domains may therefore also regulate sexual development in mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-695
Number of pages5
Issue number6668
StatePublished - Feb 12 1998


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