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Department of Molecular Life Sciences


Sex and germ cell development


Females and males differ in many ways. Early in development, choices are made that eventually lead to sexually dimorphic structures and behavior. One of the decisions that has to be taken is, whether eggs or sperm are produced. We investigate the genetic control of this decision, using the fruitfly Drosophila as a model system. Although functional gametes are only required in adults, differences between prospective female and male germ cells are detected already in embryos. They persist and are amplified as differentiation proceeds. The differences result from complex interactions that involve genes that act in somatic cells of the gonad and genes that act within germ cells. Our aim is to understand how these interactions lead to a choice between the oogenic and the spermatogenic pathway, and to identify the genetic elements controlling sex-specific gene expression in somatic gonadal cells and in germ cells.