PerspectiveDevelopment

Determining Sexual Identity

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Science  12 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6044, pp. 829-830
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210282

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Summary

Back when we were embryos, a genetic “switch” was thrown, providing us with a male or female identity that had profound influence on the development of our bodies and our minds. The effects of sex determination are particularly important in the germ cells, which must form either the sperm or eggs necessary for sexual reproduction. The mechanism that determines sex in the germ line can be very different from the mechanism that determines sex for the rest of the body, the soma. On page 885 of this issue, Hashiyama et al. describe a critical aspect of how germline sex determination is regulated in fruit flies (1), bringing us a step closer to understanding how sexual identity is regulated in humans and other animals.