Sex determination offers an opportunity to address many classic questions of developmental biology. In addition, because sex determination evolves rapidly, it offers an opportunity to investigate the evolution of genetic hierarchies. Sex determination in Drosophila melanogaster is controlled by the master regulatory gene, Sex lethal (Sxl). DmSxl controls the alternative splicing of a downstream gene, transformer (tra), which acts with tra2 to control alternative splicing of doublesex (dsx). DmSxl also controls its own splicing, creating an autoregulatory feedback loop that ensures expression of Sxl in females, but not males. A recent paper has shown that in the dipteran Ceratitis capitata later (downstream) steps in the regulatory hierarchy are conserved, while earlier (upstream) steps are not. Cctra is regulated by alternative splicing and apparently controls the alternative splicing of Ccdsx. However, Cctra is not regulated by CcSxl. Instead it appears to autoregulate in a manner similar to the autoregulation seen with DmSxl.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.