Analysis of the doublesex female protein in Drosophila melanogaster: Role in sexual differentiation and behavior and dependence on intersex

Julie A. Waterbury, Larry L. Jackson, Paul Schedl

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88 Scopus citations


doublesex (dsx) is unusual among the known sex-determination genes of Drosophila melanogaster in that functional homologs are found in distantly related species. In flies, dsx occupies a position near the bottom of the sex determination hierarchy. It is expressed in male- and female-specific forms and these proteins function as sex-specific transcription factors. In the studies reported here, we have ectopically expressed the female Dsx protein (Dsx(F)) from a constitutive promoter and examined its regulatory activities independent of other upstream factors involved in female sex determination. We show that it functions as a positive regulator of female differentiation and a negative regulator of male differentiation. As predicted by the DNA- binding properties of the Dsx protein, Dsx(F) and Dsx(M) compete with each other for the regulation of target genes. In addition to directing sex- specific differentiation, Dsx(F) plays an important role in sexual behavior. Wild-type males ectopically expressing Dsx(F) are actively courted by other males. This acquisition of feminine sex appeal is likely due to the induction of female pheromones by Dsx(F). More extreme behavioral abnormalities are observed when Dsx(F) is ectopically expressed in dsx XY animals; these animals are not only courted by but also copulate with, wild-type males. Finally, we provide evidence that intersex is required for the feminizing activities of Dsx(F) and that it is not regulated by the sex-specific splicing cascade.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1653-1667
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics

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