Sex Determination Cascade in Insects: A Great Treasure House of Alternative Splicing

Part of the Diversity and Commonality in Animals book series (DCA)


Cytological and genetic studies using insects, performed in the first decades of the twentieth century, greatly contributed to establishing the notion that genotypic factors determine sexual fate. Since then, excellent studies of Drosophila have provided important clues to answering the question of how sex is determined. In Drosophila melanogaster, somatic sexual differentiation is regulated by a well-characterized genetic hierarchy composed of a primary genetic signal (X:A ratio), master regulator (Sex-lethal), subordinate regulator (transformer/transformer-2), and double-switch (dsx and fru). On the basis of the knowledge obtained from studies with Drosophila, scientists have gained understanding of molecular mechanisms of sex determination in a variety of insect species. Recent studies have revealed that several insect species, such as the silkworm and the mosquito, have a unique sex determination cascade, which is surprisingly different from that in Drosophila. The most characteristic feature of the sex-determining genes in insects so far identified is that their sex-specific expressions are controlled by alternative splicing. In this chapter, we give an overview of the sex-determining genes revealed thorough the studies of D. melanogaster and those homologues identified in either nondrosophilid insects or animal species other than insects. In particular, we provide a detailed description of the novel sex-determining genes identified in the silkworm on the basis of our recent studies.


Sex determination Sexual differentiation Sex-determining gene Alternative splicing Insects Sex determination cascade Silkworm 


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© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Biological Sciences, Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier SciencesThe University of TokyoKashiwaJapan

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