Temperature-dependent sex determination and gonadal differentiation in reptiles

  • Claude Pieau
  • Mireille Dorizzi
  • Noëlle Richard-Mercier
Part of the Experientia Supplementum book series (EXS, volume 91)


In many reptile species, sexual differentiation of gonads is sensitive to temperature (temperature-dependent sex determination, TSD) during a critical period of embryonic development (thermosensitive period, TSP). Experiments carried out with different models including turtles, crocodilians and lizards have demonstrated the implication of estrogens and the key role played by aromatase (the enzyme complex that converts androgens to estrogens) in ovary differentiation during TSP and in maintenance of the ovarian structure after TSP. In some of these experiments, the occurrence of various degrees of gonadal intersexuality is related to weak differences in aromatase activity, suggesting subtle regulations of the aromatase gene at the transcription level. Temperature could intervene in these regulations. Studies presently under way deal with cloning (cDNAs) and expression (mRNAs) of genes that have been shown, or are expected, to be involved in gonadal formation and/or differentiation in mammals. Preliminary results show that homologues of the WT1, SF1, SOX9, DAX1 and AMH genes exist in TSD reptiles. However, the expression patterns of these genes during gonadal differentiation may be different between mammals and TSD reptiles and also between different reptile species. How these genes could interact with aromatase is being examined.


Aromatase Activity Steroidogenic Enzyme Germinal Epithelium Gonadal Differentiation Estradiol Benzoate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude Pieau
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mireille Dorizzi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Noëlle Richard-Mercier
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut Jacques MonodCNRSParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Institut Jacques MonodUniversités Paris 6 et Paris 7Paris Cedex 05France

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