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At the crossroads of fate - somatic cell lineage specification in the fetal gonad

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewpeer-review


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The reproductive endocrine systems are vastly different between male and female. This sexual dimorphism of endocrine milieu originates from sex-specific differentiation of the somatic cells in the gonads during fetal life. The majority of gonadal somatic cells arise from the adrenogonadal primordium. After separation of the adrenal and gonadal primordia, the gonadal somatic cells initiate sex-specific differentiation during gonadal sex determination with the specification of the supporting cell lineages: Sertoli cells in the testis vs. granulosa cells in the ovary. The supporting cell lineages then facilitate the differentiation of the steroidogenic cell lineages, Leydig cells in the testis and theca cells in the ovary. Proper differentiation of these cell types defines the somatic cell environment that is essential for germ cell development, hormone production, and establishment of the reproductive tracts. Impairment of lineage specification and function of gonadal somatic cells can lead to disorders of sexual development (DSDs) in humans. Human DSDs and processes for gonadal development have been successfully modelled using genetically modified mouse models. In this review, we focus on the fate decision processes from the initial stage of formation of the adrenogonadal primordium in the embryo, to the maintenance of the somatic cell identities in the gonads when they become fully differentiated in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEndocrine Reviews
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)739–759
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 53805274