Drosophila Sex lethal Gene Initiates Female Development in Germline Progenitors

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Science  07 Jul 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208146


Sex determination in the Drosophila germline is regulated by both the sex of the surrounding soma and cell-autonomous cues. How primordial germ cells (PGCs) initiate sexual development via cell-autonomous mechanisms is unclear. We demonstrate here in Drosophila that Sex lethal (Sxl) does act autonomously in PGCs to induce female development. Sxl is transiently expressed in PGCs during their migration to the gonads, and this expression, which was detected only in XX PGCs, is necessary for PGCs to assume a female fate. Ectopic expression of Sxl in XY PGCs was sufficient to induce them to enter oogenesis, and produce functional eggs when transplanted into an XX host. Our data provide powerful evidence that Sxl initiates female germline fate during sexual development.