It ain't over till it's ova: germline sex determination in C. elegans

Bioessays. 2001 Jul;23(7):596-604. doi: 10.1002/bies.1085.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Helminth Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Ovum
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional
  • Sex Determination Processes*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • fem-3 protein, C elegans
  • tra-2 protein, C elegans