The primary sex-determining signal in Caenorhabditis elegans is the ratio of X chromosomes to sets of autosomes (X/A ratio), normally 1.0 in hermaphrodites (XX) and 0.5 in males (XO). XX triploids (X/A = 0.67) are males, but if these animals carry a partial duplication of the X chromosome such that X/A approximately equal to 0.7, they develop as intersexes that are sexually mosaic. We have analyzed these mosaics using Nomarski microscopy and in situ hybridization to obtain information on whether sex determination decisions can be made independently in different cells and tissues, and when these commitments are made. The observed patterns of male and female cells in individual animals indicate that sex determination decisions can be influenced by anterior-posterior position and that sex determination decisions can be made as late as the third larval stage of postembryonic development. Although these decisions clearly can be made independently in different lineages, they show substantial biases toward one sex or the other in individual animals. We interpret these results to suggest that sex determination in C. elegans is not entirely cell autonomous.

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