Thursday, August 18, 2011
oh my! reprogramming sex!
having grown up in the lab famous for helping to decipher the molecular genetics of sex-determination, this paper is super-cool -- previously, it was thought that SRY (sex-determining region on the Y) is the most important determinant of sexual differentiation, and that once decided, sexual fate was not able to be changed -- makes sense -- we don't want to have to change our wardrobe just because one of our genes shuts down transcription....anyway it turns out that in females, transcriptional silencing of FOXL2 results in reprogramming of ovarian granulosa cells, forming sertoli (testis!) cells -- now, as shown in a paper in nature by the Zarkower lab from U. Minnesota, adult sertoli cells from the testis can be reprogrammed to form granulosa cells, simply by loss of the transcription factor DMRT1! Furthermore, after foxl2 is activated by loss of dmrt1, theca cells form and estrogen is produced, resulting in feminzation of the testis! It is possible that capacity for such global reprogramming of cell fate is limited to the gonads, however it leaves me wondering whether there might be a similar transcription factor out there that could do the same for a cancer cell....read the paper by Matson et al.