Widespread expression of the testis–determining gene SRY in a marsupial Academic Article uri icon


  • There is compelling evidence from mutation analysis and transgenesis that the SRY gene isolated from human and mouse encodes the testis-determining factor on the mammalian Y chromosome. However, how SRY achieves this function is unclear. Although marsupials have been separated from eutherian mammals for approximately 100 million years, homologues of SRY have been localised to the Y chromosome of two unrelated marsupial species, the tammar wallaby and the Darling Downs dunnart. Gonadal development is fundamentally similar in eutherian and marsupial mammals, but the timing of morphological events is different. Fetal Sry transcripts are confined to somatic cells of the male mouse genital ridge between 10.5-12.5 days post coitum, corresponding with the onset of testis differentiation. Analysis of Sry gene expression in the genital ridge of normal and germ cell-deficient fetal mice has established that this gene acts in the somatic cell lineage, and is presumed to induce the formation of Sertoli cells. This assumption can be tested more critically in the tammar, where the equivalent stages of testis differentiation are observed over a 7-day period. We have examined the relationship of SRY expression to testis differentiation in the tammar wallaby. We show the marsupial SRY gene cannot be exclusively coupled to Sertoli cell differentiation, as this gene is expressed in the male fetus from several days before genital ridge formation until 40 days after birth. SRY transcripts are also present in a variety of extra-gonadal tissues in the developing young and adult male, a pattern of SRY expression similar to that observed in humans. These data indicate that, in addition to a role in testis determination, SRY may have other functions [corrected].


  • Graves, Jenny
  • Harry, Jenny L
  • Koopman, Peter
  • Brennan, Francine E
  • Marshall Graves, Jennifer A
  • Renfree, Marilyn B

publication date

  • November 1995