A single genetic determinant that prevents sex reversal in C57BL-Y(POS) congenic mice

J. Barry Whitney, Thomas M. Mills, Ronald W. Lewis, Roger Wartell, Tom O. Abney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Sex determination in the mammalian embryo begins with the activation of a gene on the Y chromosome which triggers a cascade of events that lead to male development. The mechanism by which this gene, designated SRY in humans and Sry in mice (sex determining region of the Y chromosome), is activated remains unknown. Likewise, the downstream target genes for Sry remain unidentified at present. C57BL mice carrying a Y chromosome from Mus musculus musculus or molossinus develop normally as males. In contrast, C57BL/6 mice with the Y chromosome from M. m. domesticus often show sex reversal, i.e., develop as XY females. It has been documented that C57BL mice with the Y chromosome from Poschiavinus (Y(POS)), a domesticus subtype, always develop as females or hermaphrodites. This suggests that a C57BL gene either up- or downstream of Sry is ineffective in interacting with Sry, which then compromises the processes that lead to normal male sex development. Nonetheless, by selective breeding, we have been able to generate a sex reversal-resistant C57BL/6-congenic strain of mice in which the XY(POS) individuals consistently develop as normal males with bilateral testes. Because the resistance to sex reversal was transferred from strain 129S17Sv (nonalbino) by simple selection over 13 backcross generations, it is inferred that a single autosomal gene or chromosomal region confers resistance to the sex reversal that would otherwise result. XY(POS) normal males generated in these crosses were compared to XY(POS) abnormal individuals and to C57BL/6 controls for sexual phenotype, gonadal weight, serum testosterone, and major urinary protein (MUP) level. A clear correlation was found among phenotypic sex, MUP level, and testis weight in the males and in the incompletely masculinized XY(POS) mice. The fully masculinized males of the congenic strain resemble C57BL/6 males in the tested parameters. DNA analysis confirmed that these males, in fact, carry the Y(POS) Sry gene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalBiochemical Genetics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2000


  • Major urinary protein
  • Mouse genetics
  • Sex determination
  • Sex reversal
  • Sry gene
  • Testosterone
  • Y chromosome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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