Dr Rajini Sreenivasan, Dr Louisa Ludbrook
Children born with a disorder of sex development (DSD) may differ from typical males or females in their chromosomes, hormones or reproductive organs, sometimes resulting in infertility or gonadal cancer. DSDs are the most common birth defect and yet, most cases are unexplained genetically. Mutations in a gene called SF-1 often lead to DSDs. Our study has found that SF-1 mutants show compromised activity on a genetic enhancer that turns on a key testis development factor SOX9.
Centre for Endocrinology and Metabolism
Sex Determination and Gonadal Development
Journal and article title
SF-1 mutants not only altered SOX9 enhancer activity. Many SF-1 mutants analysed were abnormally located within cells. The mutations were also found to cause changes in SF-1 protein structure that could affect its function. We also found that SF-1 mutants that resulted in more severely compromised SOX9 enhancer activity were more frequently associated with more severe DSD symptoms.
When SOX9 level is too low, testicular development can be disrupted, leading to DSDs. Our study may therefore implicate altered SF-1-mediated production of SOX9 in DSDs. Understanding the genetic mechanisms that underlie DSDs has provided much needed answers as to how DSDs arise and will enable improved diagnosis and clinical management.
Disorders of sex development