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Two Transcriptionally Distinct Pathways Drive Female Development In A Reptile With Both Genetic And Temperature Dependent Sex Determination

Sarah L. Whiteley, Clare E. Holleley, Susan Wagner, James Blackburn, Ira W. Deveson, Jennifer A. Marshall Graves, Arthur Georges

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How temperature determines sex remains unknown. A recent hypothesis proposes that conserved cellular mechanisms (calcium and redox; ‘CaRe’ status) sense temperature and identify genes and regulatory pathways likely to be involved in driving sexual development. We take advantage of the unique sex determining system of the model organism,Pogona vitticeps, to assess predictions of this hypothesis.P.vitticepshas ZZ male: ZW female sex chromosomes whose influence can be overridden in genetic males by high temperatures, causing male-to-female sex reversal. We compare a developmental transcriptome series of ZWf females and temperature sex reversed ZZf females. We demonstrate that early developmental cascades differ dramatically between genetically driven and thermally driven females, later converging to produce a common outcome (ovaries). We show that genes proposed as regulators of thermosensitive sex determination play a role in temperature sex reversal. Our study greatly advances the search for the mechanisms by which temperature determines sex.