Epigenetic Regulation of Mouse Sex Determination by the Histone Demethylase Jmjd1a

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Science  06 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6150, pp. 1106-1109
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239864

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More Determined Sex

Although several transcription factors participate in mammalian sex determination, the contribution from specific epigenetic regulation is just being revealed. Kuroki et al. (p. 1106) show that a JmjC domain–containing protein, Jmjd1a, catalyzes H3K9 demethylation of the Y-linked sex-determining gene Sry in mice to enable its expression above the required threshold level. Ablation of Jmjd1a function results in mouse male-to-female sex reversal, hence not only revealing a mechanism of Sry regulation but also the pivotal role of epigenetic regulation in mammalian sex determination.


Developmental gene expression is defined through cross-talk between the function of transcription factors and epigenetic status, including histone modification. Although several transcription factors play crucial roles in mammalian sex determination, how epigenetic regulation contributes to this process remains unknown. We observed male-to-female sex reversal in mice lacking the H3K9 demethylase Jmjd1a and found that Jmjd1a regulates expression of the mammalian Y chromosome sex-determining gene Sry. Jmjd1a directly and positively controls Sry expression by regulating H3K9me2 marks. These studies reveal a pivotal role of histone demethylation in mammalian sex determination.

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