Research Articles

Microinjected DNA from the X chromosome affects sex determination in Caenorhabditis elegans

Science  25 Nov 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4882, pp. 1146-1151
DOI: 10.1126/science.2973125

Abstract

The signal for sex determination in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is the ratio of the number of X chromosomes to the number of sets of autosomes (X/A ratio). By previous genetic tests, elements that feminized chromosomal males appeared to be widespread on the X chromosome, but the nature of these elements was not determined. In experiments to define a feminizing element molecularly, cloned sequences were added to chromosomally male embryos by microinjection into the mother. Three different X-chromosome clones, including part of an actin gene, part of a myosin heavy chain gene, and all of two myosin light chain genes, feminize chromosomal males. Both somatic and germline aspects of sex determination are affected. In contrast, about 40 kilobases of nematode autosomal DNA, phage lambda DNA, and plasmid pBR322 DNA do not affect sex determination. A feminizing region was localized to a maximum of 131 base pairs within an intron of the X-linked actin gene; a part of the gene that does not have this region is not feminizing. The results suggest that short, discrete elements found associated with many X-linked genes may act as signals for sex determination in C. elegans.

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