The role of genes in the differentiation of the testis and ovary has been extensively studied in the human and the mouse. Despite over a decade of investigations, the precise roles of genes and their interactions in the pathway of sex determination are still unclear. We have chosen to take a comparative look at sex determination and differentiation to gain insights into the evolution and the conserved functions of these genes. To achieve this, we have examined a wide variety of eutherian sex determining genes in a marsupial, the tammar wallaby, to determine which genes have a conserved and fundamental mammalian sex determining role. These investigations have provided many unique insights. Here, we review the recent molecular and endocrine investigations into sexual development in marsupials, and highlight how these studies have shed light on the roles of genes and hormones in mammalian sex determination and differentiation.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.