Male sex determination: insights into molecular mechanisms

Asian J Androl. 2012 Jan;14(1):164-71. doi: 10.1038/aja.2011.169. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Disorders of sex development often arise from anomalies in the molecular or cellular networks that guide the differentiation of the embryonic gonad into either a testis or an ovary, two functionally distinct organs. The activation of the Y-linked gene Sry (sex-determining region Y) and its downstream target Sox9 (Sry box-containing gene 9) triggers testis differentiation by stimulating the differentiation of Sertoli cells, which then direct testis morphogenesis. Once engaged, a genetic pathway promotes the testis development while actively suppressing genes involved in ovarian development. This review focuses on the events of testis determination and the struggle to maintain male fate in the face of antagonistic pressure from the underlying female programme.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor / physiology
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / genetics
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Sex Determination Processes / genetics
  • Sex Determination Processes / physiology*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / embryology*


  • SOX1 protein, human
  • SOX9 Transcription Factor
  • SOX9 protein, human
  • SOXB1 Transcription Factors