Transcriptional regulators containing the DM domain DNA binding motif have been found to control sexual differentiation in a diverse group of metazoan animals including vertebrates, insects, and nematodes, suggesting that these proteins may comprise a very ancient group of sexual regulators. Dmrt1, 1 of 7 mammalian DM domain genes, is essential for several aspects of testicular differentiation in mice. The Dmrt1 mutant phenotype becomes apparent shortly after birth, and culminates in severe testicular dysgenesis. To better understand the roles of Dmrt1 in testicular development we have performed a more detailed analysis of its mutant phenotypes, and we have used mRNA expression profiling to identify genes misregulated in the neonatal Dmrt1 mutant testis. We find that Dmrt1 mutant germ cells fail to undergo several of the normal postnatal events of germ cell development, including radial movement, mitotic proliferation, differentiation into spermatogonia, and initiation of meiosis, and they die by P14. During this period Dmrt1 mutant Sertoli cells fail to polarize and form tight junctions, and fail to cease proliferation, eventually filling the seminiferous tubules. Expression profiling at P1 and P2 in Dmrt1 mutant testes indicates defects in several important testicular signaling pathways (Gdnf, retinoic acid, TGFβ, FSH), and detects elevated expression of the pluripotency marker Stella/Dppa3/Pgc7, providing insight into the molecular basis of Dmrt1 testis defects. This work also identifies a number of new candidate testicular regulators for further investigation.
- DM domain
- Sexual differentiation