Sex determination in animals and fungi is regulated by specific sex-determining genes. The Aspergillus nidulans mating type gene matA and the human SRY (Sex-Determining Region Y) encode proteins containing a single HMG (high-mobility group) domain. Analysis of the amino-acid sequence of MatA and SRY transcription factors revealed significant structural similarity. The human SRY protein is able to functionally replace MatA and drives the sexual cycle in the fungus A. nidulans. Functional studies indicate that SRY drives early fruiting body development, and hybrid MatA protein carrying the SRY HMG box is fully capable of driving both early and late stages of sexual development, including gametogenesis. Our data suggest that SRY and MatA are both structurally and functionally related and conserved in regulating sexual processes. The fundamental mechanisms driving evolution of the genetic pathways underlying sex determination, sex chromosomes and sexual reproduction in eukaryotes appear similar.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Ms Heather Johnson for assistance in preparation of the manuscript. These experiments were performed in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho. This study was supported by NSF 0318801 and NIH NCRR P20 RR015587 grants to B.L.M. and NIH ES012974 grant to M.K.S.