University of Oulu

Development of the adreno-genital system : female sex determination, ovarian and adrenal gland ontogeny regulated by Wnt-4 in mice

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Author: Heikkilä, Minna1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Biocenter Oulu
2University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biochemistry
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2002
Publish Date: 2002-11-08
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Raahensali (Auditorium L 10), Linnanmaa, on November 8th, 2002, at 10 a.m.
Reviewer: Professor Lauri Pelliniemi
Docent Olli Ritvos


Although the genetic sex of an embryo is determined at conception by the presence or absence of the Y chromosome, both females and males have bipotential, undifferentiated gonads early in their development. Genes and testicular hormones direct differentiation into either testes or ovaries. The first relevant gene to be identified was the Y-linked master regulatory gene, SRY, since when several other genes have been found to be of importance for sex determination.

The primary aim here was to identify the role of Wnt-4 in the development of the gonad and adrenal gland. Wnt-4 was found to be expressed in the developing gonad, the Müllerian duct and the adrenal gland, in addition to the kidney, pituitary gland and mammary gland as observed earlier. Expression in the gonad was found to be regulated in a sex-specific manner. After sex determination Wnt-4 was downregulated in the testis, but the expression persisted until birth in the ovary. Wnt-4-deficient female mice demonstrated a partial female-to-male sex reversal and a reduction in the number of oocytes, while the Müllerian duct was absent from both sexes. Lack of Wnt-4 in the adrenal gland led to reduced aldosterone production, indicating abnormal development of the zona glomerulosa. Flutamide administration to pregnant Wnt-4 heterozygote females was shown to partially restore the sex reversal.

The results suggest that female development is not a default pathway but needs active signalling, in which Wnt-4 plays an essential role.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-6844-X
ISBN Print: 951-42-6843-1
Issue: 390
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2002. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.