Objective: Testicular differentiation can occur in the absence of the Y chromosome giving XX sex-reversed males. Although Y chromosomal sequences can be detected in the majority of male subjects with a 46,XX karyotype, several studies have shown that approximately 10% of patients lack Y material including the SRY gene. The aim of this study was to see if the classification of XX sex-reversed individuals into three groups, Y-DNA-positive phenotypically normal XX males, Y-DNA-negative XX males with genital ambiguities and Y-DNA-negative true hermaphrodites can be applied to our cases.
Design: Endocrinological and genetic studies were conducted in 20 XX sex-reversed patients.
Patients: Twenty patients with various phenotypes were studied. They were between 20 days and 35 years old. Ten presented ambiguous external genitalia (Prader's stages II to IV). After laparotomy or gonadal biopsy, the diagnosis was 46,XX true hermaphroditism in five, and XX male in 15.
Measurements: Blood samples were obtained from all patients for hormonal and molecular studies. Basal levels of testosterone, oestradiol and pituitary gonadotrophins were measured by RIA. In addition, two stimulation tests were performed: gonadotrophin stimulation with GnRH and testicular stimulation with hCG. Several Y-specific DNA sequences of the short arm of the Y chromosome were analysed by Southern blot and polymerase chain reaction methods.
Results: In this study, three categories of XX sex-reversed individuals were observed: phenotypically normal males with or without gynaecomastia, males with genital ambiguities, and true hermaphrodites. Endocrinological data were similar in XX males and in true hermaphrodites. Testosterone levels exhibited normal (n = 9) or decreased (n = 11) values. The hCG response was low. FSH and LH were elevated in 13 patients. Molecular analysis in ten patients showed varying amounts of Y material including the Y boundary and SRY. Ten patients with various phenotypes lacked Y chromosomal DNA. There was no relation between Leydig cell function (as indicated by testosterone levels before or after hCG stimulation) and the presence of Y chromosome material.
Conclusion: Although the presence of Y-specific DNA generally results in a more masculinized phenotype, exceptions do occur. In the Y-DNA-negative group, complete or incomplete masculinization in the absence of SRY suggests a mutation of one or more downstream non-Y, testis-determining genes.