A primer on the use of mouse models for identifying direct sex chromosome effects that cause sex differences in non-gonadal tissues

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Abstract

In animals with heteromorphic sex chromosomes, all sex differences originate from the sex chromosomes, which are the only factors that are consistently different in male and female zygotes. In mammals, the imbalance in Y gene expression, specifically the presence vs. absence of Sry, initiates the differentiation of testes in males, setting up lifelong sex differences in the level of gonadal hormones, which in turn cause many sex differences in the phenotype of non-gonadal tissues. The inherent imbalance in the expression of X and Y genes, or in the epigenetic impact of X and Y chromosomes, also has the potential to contribute directly to the sexual differentiation of non-gonadal cells. Here, we review the research strategies to identify the X and Y genes or chromosomal regions that cause direct, sexually differentiating effects on non-gonadal cells. Some mouse models are useful for separating the effects of sex chromosomes from those of gonadal hormones. Once direct "sex chromosome effects" are detected in these models, further studies are required to narrow down the list of candidate X and/or Y genes and then to identify the sexually differentiating genes themselves. Logical approaches to the search for these genes are reviewed here.

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Burgoyne, P. S., & Arnold, A. P. (2016, December 13). A primer on the use of mouse models for identifying direct sex chromosome effects that cause sex differences in non-gonadal tissues. Biology of Sex Differences. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13293-016-0115-5

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