The bipotential gonad expresses genes associated with both the male and female pathways. Adoption of the male testicular fate is associated with the repression of many female genes including Wnt4. However, the importance of repression of Wnt4 to the establishment of male development was not previously determined. Deletion of either Fgf9 or Fgfr2 in an XY gonad resulted in up-regulation of Wnt4 and male-to-female sex reversal. We investigated whether the deletion if Wnt4 could rescue sex reversal in Fgf9 and Fgfr2 mutants. XY Fgf9/Wnt4 and Fgfr2/Wnt4 double mutants developed testes with male somatic and germ cells present, suggesting that the primary role of Fgf signaling is the repression of female-promoting genes. Thus, the decision to adopt the male fate is based not only on whether male genes, such as Sox9, are expressed, but also on the active repression of female genes, such as Wnt4. Because loss of Wnt4 results in the up-regulation of Fgf9, we also tested the possibility that derepression of Fgf9 was responsible for the aspects of male development observed in XX Wnt4 mutants. However, we found that the relationship between these two signaling factors is not symmetric: loss of Fgf9 in XX Wnt4(-/-) gonads does not rescue their partial female-to-male sex-reversal.
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