The indifferent mammalian embryonic gonad generates an ovary or testis, but the factors involved are still poorly known. The Wnt-4 signal represents one critical female determinant, since its absence leads to partial female-to-male sex reversal in mouse, but its signalling is as well implicated in the testis development. We used the Wnt-4 deficient mouse as a model to identify candidate gonadogenesis genes, and found that the Notum, Phlda2, Runx-1 and Msx1 genes are typical of the wild-type ovary and the Osr2, Dach2, Pitx2 and Tacr3 genes of the testis. Strikingly, the expression of these latter genes becomes reversed in the Wnt-4 knock-out ovary, suggesting a role in ovarian development. We identified the transcription factor Runx-1 as a Wnt-4 signalling target gene, since it is expressed in the ovary and is reduced upon Wnt-4 knock-out. Consistent with this, introduction of the Wnt-4 signal into early ovary cells ex vivo induces Runx-1 expression, while conversely Wnt-4 expression is down-regulated in the absence of Runx-1. We conclude that the Runx-1 gene can be a Wnt-4 signalling target, and that Runx-1 and Wnt-4 are mutually interdependent in their expression. The changes in gene expression due to the absence of Wnt-4 in gonads reflect the sexually dimorphic role of this signal and its complex gene network in mammalian gonad development.
Keywords: Female development; Germ line; Organogenesis; Ovary; Runx-1; Sex determination; Somatic cells; Testis; Wnt-4.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.