Sex-lethal is a binary switch gene that controls all aspects of Drosophila sexual dimorphism. It must be active in females and inactive in males. The on/off regulation reflects alternative RNA splicing in which full-length proteins are produced only in females. Here we investigate the role of Sxl in maintaining sexual pathway commitments. By ectopic expression of a female Sxl cDNA in transgenic male flies, we show that Sxl protein induces a rapid switch from male- to female-specific splicing. The ectopically expressed Sxl protein will trans-activate an endogenous wild-type Sxl gene. This establishes a feedback loop in which Sxl proteins induce their own synthesis by directing the female-specific splicing of Sxl transcripts. We conclude that the female determined state is maintained by Sxl through positive autoregulation, while the male determined state is maintained by default.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)