Investigations of humans with disorders of sex development (DSDs) resulted in the discovery of many of the now-known mammalian sex-determining genes, including SRY, RSPO1, SOX9, NR5A1, WT1, NR0B1, and WNT4.
It is proposed that this region contains a gonad specific SOX9 transcriptional enhancer(s), the gain or loss of which results in genomic imbalance sufficient to activate or inactivate SOX9 gonadal expression in a tissue specific manner, switch sex determination, and result in isolated DSD.
Heterozygous loss-of-function coding-sequence mutations of the transcription factor SOX9 cause campomelic dysplasia, a rare skeletal dysplasia with congenital bowing of long bones (campomelia), hypoplastic scapulae, a missing pair of ribs, pelvic, and vertebral malformations, clubbed feet, Pierre Robin sequence (PRS), facial dysmorphia, and disorders of sex development.
Translocations, deletions, and duplications within a ∼2 Mb region upstream of SOX9 can recapitulate the CD-DSD phenotype fully or partially, suggesting the existence of an unusually large cis-regulatory control region.
Key themes that emerged included aberrant regulation of SOX9 via the hTES promoter in 46,XY gonadal DSDs, the role of the MAPK pathway in normal and aberrant gonadal development, and the role of new technologies in identification of gonadal DSDs.
Our study showed that the identified copy number variation region located upstream of the SOX9 gene contains potential regulatory sequences (long non-coding RNA and hfMAGI2) and led to the assumption that a multiplication of this element may alter expression of the SOX9 gene, triggering the DSD phenotype.
Our previous work involving the genomic analysis of isolated DSD patients revealed a 78kb minimal sex determining region (RevSex) far upstream of SOX9 that was duplicated in 46,XX and deleted in 46,XY DSDs.
Multiple cases of Disorders of Sex Development in human patients or sex reversal in mice and other vertebrates can be explained by mutations affecting upstream regulators of Sox9 expression, such as the product of the Y chromosome gene Sry that triggers testis differentiation.