Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 12, pp 1503–1514 | Cite as

Diverse and variable sex determination mechanisms in vertebrates

  • Xi-Yin Li
  • Jian-Fang GuiEmail author


Sex is prevalent in nature and sex determination is one of the most fundamental biological processes, while the way of initiating female and male development exhibits remarkable diversity and variability across vertebrates. The knowledge on why and how sex determination mechanisms evolve unusual plasticity remains limited. Here, we summarize sex determination systems, master sex-determining genes and gene-regulatory networks among vertebrates. Recent research advancements on sex determination system transition are also introduced and discussed in some non-model animals with multiple sex determination mechanisms. This review will provide insights into the origin, transition and evolutionary adaption of different sex determination strategies in vertebrates, as well as clues for future perspectives in this field.


sex determination sex-determining gene sex chromosome sex transition sex differentiation sex control breeding 



This work was supported by the Key Program of Frontier Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (QYZDY-SSW-SMC025), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31502148 and 31873036), the Earmarked Fund for Modern Agro-industry Technology Research System (NYCYTX-49), the Autonomous Project of the State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology (2016FBZ01), the Autonomous Project of the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y25A171) and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Science.


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology, Institute of Hydrobiology, College of Modern Agriculture Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, The Innovative Academy of Seed DesignChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina

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