Chromosomal Sex Determination in Mammals – Developmental Biology – NCBI Bookshelf

Primary sex determination is the determination of the gonads. In mammals, primary sex determination is strictly chromosomal and is not usually influenced by the environment. In most cases, the female is XX and the male is XY. Every individual must have at least one X chromosome. Since the female is XX, each of her eggs has a single X chromosome. The male, being XY, can generate two types of sperm: half bear the X chromosome, half the Y. If the egg receives another X chromosome from the sperm, the resulting individual is XX, forms ovaries, and is female; if the egg receives a Y chromosome from the sperm, the individual is XY, forms testes, and is male. The Y chromosome carries a gene that encodes a testis-determining factor. This factor organizes the gonad into a testis rather than an ovary. Unlike the situation in Drosophila (discussed below), the mammalian Y chromosome is a crucial factor for determining sex in mammals. A person with five X chromosomes and one Y chromosome (XXXXXY) would be male. Furthermore, an individual with only a single X chromosome and no second X or Y (i.e., XO) develops as a female and begins making ovaries, although the ovarian follicles cannot be maintained. For a complete ovary, a second X chromosome is needed.

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