In mice and humans, the androgen receptor (AR) gene, located on the X chromosome, is not known to be involved in sex determination. In the Japanese frog Rana rugosa the AR is located on the sex chromosomes (X, Y, Z and W). Phylogenetic analysis shows that the AR on the X chromosome (X-AR) of the Korean R. rugosa is basal and segregates into two clusters: one containing W-AR of Japanese R. rugosa, the other containing Y-AR. AR expression is twice as high in ZZ (male) compared to ZW (female) embryos in which the W-AR is barely expressed. Higher AR-expression may be associated with male sex determination in this species. To examine whether the Z-AR is involved in sex determination in R. rugosa, we produced transgenic (Tg) frogs carrying an exogenous Z-AR. Analysis of ZW Tg frogs revealed development of masculinized gonads or 'ovotestes'. Expression of CYP17 and Dmrt1, genes known to be activated during normal male gonadal development, were up-regulated in the ZW ovotestis. Testosterone, supplied to the rearing water, completed the female-to-male sex-reversal in the AR-Tg ZW frogs. Here we report that Z-AR is involved in male sex-determination in an amphibian species.
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