Genetic and molecular insights into the development and evolution of sexual dimorphism

Nat Rev Genet. 2009 Nov;10(11):797-804. doi: 10.1038/nrg2687.


Sexual dimorphism is common throughout the animal kingdom. However, a molecular understanding of how sex-specific traits develop and evolve has been elusive. Recently, substantial progress has been made in elucidating how diverse sex-determination systems are integrated into developmental gene networks. One common theme from these studies is that sex-limited traits and gene expression are produced by the combined action of transcriptional effectors of sex-determination pathways and other transcription factors on target gene cis-regulatory elements. Sex-specific traits evolve by the gain, loss or modification of linkages in the genetic networks regulated by sex-determination transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Nuclear Proteins