Developmental distribution of female-specific sex-lethal proteins in Drosophila melanogaster

Daniel Bopp, Leslie R. Bell, Thomas W. Cline, Paul Schedl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


The binary switch gene Sex-lethal (Sxl) must be on in females and off in males to allow the proper elaboration of the appropriate sexual developmental pathway in Drosophila melanogaster. Previous studies suggested a mechanism in which the on/off regulation of Sxl occurs post-transcriptionally at the level of RNA splicing. A critical prediction of this model is that functional Sxl proteins are absent in males but present in females. In this report we show that the expected full-length proteins are only present in female animals. Multiple forms of Sxl protein are found in females, some of which are expressed in a stage- and tissue-specific pattern. Consistent with a role of Sxl proteins in regulating alternate splicing, the proteins are localized in the nucleus where they exhibit a punctate staining pattern. Surprisingly, several minor Sxl proteins appear to be present in specific tissues of both sexes of adults. The possible origin of these species is discussed. We also show that Sxl expression in the early embryo is sex specific and depends on maternal daughterless and zygotic sisterless-b activity in accordance with the established roles of these genes as positive regulators of Sxl. The onset of Sxl expression in the germ line occurs later than that in the soma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-415
Number of pages13
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Rna splicing
  • Sex determination
  • Sex specific
  • Sex-lethal proteins


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