Prior to entry into meiosis, XX germ cells in the fetal ovary undergo X chromosome reactivation. The signal for reactivation is thought to emanate from the genital ridge, but it is unclear whether it is specific to the developing ovary. To determine whether the signals are present in the developing testis as well as the ovary, we examined the expression of X-linked genes in germ cells from XXY male mice. To facilitate this analysis, we generated XXY and XX fetuses carrying X chromosomes that were differentially marked and subject to nonrandom inactivation. This pattern of nonrandom inactivation was maintained in somatic cells but, in XX as well as XXY fetuses, both parental alleles were expressed in germ cell-enriched cell populations. Because testis differentiation is temporally and morphologically normal in the XXY testis and because all germ cells embark upon a male pathway of development, these results provide compelling evidence that X chromosome reactivation in fetal germ cells is independent of the somatic events of sexual differentiation. Proper X chromosome dosage is essential for the normal fertility of male mammals, and abnormalities in germ cell development are apparent in the XXY testis within several days of X reactivation. Studies of exceptional germ cells that survive in the postnatal XXY testis demonstrated that surviving germ cells are exclusively XY and result from rare nondisjunctional events that give rise to clones of XY cells.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.