Genetic contribution to sexual identity

16 May 2005

A recent publication in Molecular Brain Research suggests that genes may exert a direct effect on the male/female sexual differentiation of the brain. Sexual differentiation of the brain is classically considered to arise due to hormonal influences during embryogenesis directing different neural development in the two sexes. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) compared gene expression patterns in the brains of male and female embryonic mice, at a stage prior to the formation of sexual organs or the influence of hormones (oestrogen and testosterone) on development. A selection of genes expressed at different levels in the brains of male and female mice were identified. The actual function of these genes has yet to be determined, but the researchers propose that they trigger key differences in the development and function of male and female brains and may contribute to sexual identity (see report from Reuters new agency).

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