Gierl MS, Gruhn WH, von Seggern A, Maltry N, Niehrs C
Male sex determination in mammals is induced by Sry, a gene whose regulation is poorly understood. Here we show that mice mutant for the stress-response gene Gadd45g display complete male-to-female sex reversal. Gadd45g and Sry have a strikingly similar expression pattern in the genital ridge, and they are coexpressed in gonadal somatic cells. In Gadd45g mutants, Sry expression is delayed and reduced, and yet Sry seemed to remain poised for expression, because its promoter is demethylated on schedule and is occupied by active histone marks. Instead, p38 MAPK signaling is impaired in Gadd45g mutants. Moreover, the transcription factor GATA4, which is required for Sry expression, binds to the Sry promoter in vivo in a MAPK-dependent manner. The results suggest that a signaling cascade, involving GADD45G → p38 MAPK → GATA4 → SRY, regulates male sex determination.