Sex determination is a unique process that allows the study of multipotent progenitors and their acquisition of sex-specific fates during differentiation of the gonad into a testis or an ovary. Using time series single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) on ovarian Nr5a1-GFP + somatic cells during sex determination, we identified a single population of early progenitors giving rise to both pre-granulosa cells and potential steroidogenic precursor cells. By comparing time series single-cell RNA sequencing of XX and XY somatic cells, we provide evidence that gonadal supporting cells are specified from these early progenitors by a non-sex-specific transcriptomic program before pre-granulosa and Sertoli cells acquire their sex-specific identity. In XX and XY steroidogenic precursors, similar transcriptomic profiles underlie the acquisition of cell fate but with XX cells exhibiting a relative delay. Our data provide an important resource, at single-cell resolution, for further interrogation of the molecular and cellular basis of mammalian sex determination.
Stévant, I., Kühne, F., Greenfield, A., Chaboissier, M. C., Dermitzakis, E. T., & Nef, S. (2019). Dissecting Cell Lineage Specification and Sex Fate Determination in Gonadal Somatic Cells Using Single-Cell Transcriptomics. Cell Reports, 26(12), 3272-3283.e3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.02.069