In vivo definition of genetic and cellular aspects of mammalian sexual differentiation

Nelson Alexander Arango, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The differentiation of the reproductive organs is an essential developmental process required for the proper transmission of the genetic material. Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS) is produced by testes and is necessary for the regression of the Müllerian ducts: the anlagen of the uterus, fallopian tubes and cervix. In vitro and standard transgenic mouse studies indicate that the nuclear hormone receptor Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) and the transcription factor SOX9 play an essential role in the regulation of Mis. To test this hypothesis, mutations in the endogenous SF-1 and SOX9 binding sites in the mouse Mis promoter were introduced by gene targeting in embryonic stem (ES) cells. In disagreement with cell culture and transgenic mouse studies, male mice homozygous for the mutant SF-1 binding site correctly initiated Mis transcription in the fetal testes, although at significantly reduced levels. Surprisingly, sufficient Mis was produced for complete elimination of the Müllerian duct system. However, when the SF-1 binding site mutation was combined with an Mis -null allele, the further decrease in Mis levels led to a partial retention of uterine tissue, but only at a distance from the testes. In contrast, males homozygous for the mutant SOX9 binding site did not initiate Mis transcription, resulting in pseudohermaphrodites with a uterus and oviducts. These studies suggest an essential role for SOX9 in the initiation of Mis transcription, whereas SF-1 appears to act as a quantitative regulator of Mis transcript levels perhaps for influencing non-Müllerian duct tissues. The Mis type II receptor, a member of the TGF-[special characters omitted] superfamily, is also required for the proper regression of the Müllerian ducts. Mis type II receptor-deficient human males and their murine counterparts develop as pseudohermaphrodites. A lacZ reporter cassette was introduced into the mouse Mis type II receptor gene, by homologous recombination in ES cells. Expression studies, based on [special characters omitted]-galactosidase activity, show marked expression of the MIS type II receptor in the postnatal Sertoli cells of the testis as well as in the prenatal and postnatal granulosa cells of the ovary. Expression is also seen in the mesenchymal cells surrounding the Müllerian duct and in the longitudinal muscle layer of the uterus.

Subject Area

Genetics|Anatomy & physiology|Animals|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Arango, Nelson Alexander, "In vivo definition of genetic and cellular aspects of mammalian sexual differentiation" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9951892.