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Single-cell transcriptomics of the mouse gonadal soma reveals the establishment of sexual dimorphism in distinct cell lineages

By Isabelle Stévant, Françoise Kühne, Andy Greenfield, Marie-Christine Chaboissier, Emmanouil T. Dermitzakis, Serge Nef

Posted 07 Sep 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/410407

Sex determination is a unique process that allows the study of multipotent progenitors and their acquisition of sex-specific fates during differentiation of the gonad into a testis or an ovary. Using time-series single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) on ovarian Nr5a1-GFP+ somatic cells during sex determination, we identified a single population of early progenitors giving rise to both pre-granulosa cells and potential steroidogenic precursor cells. By comparing time-series scRNA-seq of XX and XY somatic cells, we demonstrate that the supporting cells emerge from the early progenitors with a non-sex-specific transcriptomic program, before pre-granulosa and Sertoli cells acquire their sex-specific identity. In XX and XY steroidogenic precursors similar transcriptomic profiles underlie the acquisition of cell fate, but with a delay in XX cells. Our data provide a novel framework, at single-cell resolution, for further interrogation of the molecular and cellular basis of mammalian sex determination.

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