Highly conserved DM domain-containing transcription factors (Doublesex/MAB-3/DMRT1) are responsible for generating sexually dimorphic features. In the Drosophila central nervous system, a set of Doublesex (Dsx)-expressing neuroblasts undergo apoptosis in females whereas their male counterparts proliferate and give rise to serotonergic neurons crucial for adult mating behaviour. Our study demonstrates that the female-specific isoform of Dsx collaborates with Hox gene Abdominal-B (Abd-B) to bring about this apoptosis. Biochemical results suggest that proteins AbdB and Dsx interact through their highly conserved homeodomain and DM domain, respectively. This interaction is translated into a cooperative binding of the two proteins on the apoptotic enhancer in the case of females but not in the case of males, resulting in female-specific activation of apoptotic genes. The capacity of AbdB to use the sex-specific isoform of Dsx as a cofactor underlines the possibility that these two classes of protein are capable of cooperating in selection and regulation of target genes in a tissue- and sex-specific manner. We propose that this interaction could be a common theme in generating sexual dimorphism in different tissues across different species.
Keywords: Abdominal-B; Apoptosis; Doublesex; Drosophila; Neuroblast; Sexual dimorphism.
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.