Sex determination in most organisms involves a simple binary fate choice between male or female development; the outcome of this decision has profound effects on organismal biology, biochemistry and behaviour. In the nematode C. elegans, there is also a binary choice, either male or hermaphrodite. In C. elegans, distinct genetic pathways control somatic and germline sexual cell fate. Both pathways share a common set of globally acting regulatory genes; however, germline-specific regulatory genes also participate in the decision to make male or female gametes. The determination of sexual fate in the germline of the facultative hermaphrodite poses a special problem, because first sperm then oocytes are produced. It has emerged that additional layers of post-transcriptional regulation have been imposed to modulate the activities of the global sex-determining genes, tra-2 and fem-3; the balance between these activities is crucial in controlling sexual cell fate in the hermaphrodite germline.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.