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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A genetic analysis of the sex-determining gene, tra-1, in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

The normal sexes of Caenorhabditis elegans are the self-fertilizing hermaphrodite (XX) and the male (XO). The autosomal gene tra-1 is a major switch gene controlling sexual phenotype. Mutant phenotypes of 43 loss-of-function (lf) tra-1 alleles and 22 gain-of-function (gf) tra-1 alleles are described and discussed. The tra-1(lf) alleles are recessive and, in general, masculinizing. The most severe mutations (such as seven out of eight identified amber alleles) can transform XX animals into fertile males. These mutations have little effect on XO animals (which are male already) but lead to some abnormalities in XO gonadal development, indicating that tra-1 has functions in normal development of both sexes, although its major function is confined to the XX hermaphrodite. Weaker tra-1(lf) alleles lead to incomplete masculinization of XX animals, resulting in a variety of intersexual phenotypes. the tra-1(gf) alleles are dominant and have an opposite, feminizing effect. Six out of 22 can transform XO animals into fertile females or hermaphrodites, whereas the remainder cause partial feminization. All 22 transform XX animals into fertile females. Limited intragenic mapping indicates that the gene is large and that gf alleles map to a location different from lf alleles. The results suggest that the tra-1 gene has several roles in wild-type sexual development. First, tra-1 activity dictates female, as opposed to male, development in all nongonadal tissues of XX animals. Second, tra-1 activity dictates female development in the somatic gonad of XX animals. Third, a high level of tra-1 activity may act to inhibit spermatogenesis in the XX germ line, thereby assisting the switch from spermatogenesis to oogenesis in the hermaphrodite. These three functions are all feminizing and specific to the XX animal; the gene also has minor functions in the XO animal, which are to assist normal male somatic gonad development and to promote abundant spermatogenesis in males. A low level of both spermatogenesis and oogenesis can occur in the absence of tra-1 activity. Both the function and the regulation of this gene must be complex.[1]


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