Germ-line sex determination in Drosophila melanogaster requires an assessment of the number of X chromosomes as measured against autosomal standards (XX = female, X = male) and signaling from the soma. Both of these sex determination cues are required for female-specific Sex-lethal+ function in germ cells. The ovo+ locus encodes zinc finger protein(s) required for female-specific splicing of Sex-lethal+ pre-mRNA, making ovo+ a candidate function acting between the two principal cues and Sex-lethal+. We have made ovo reporter genes and find that they show high activity in the germ line of females and low activity in the germ line of males. XY flies transformed into somatic females do not show high levels of reporter activity, while XX flies transformed into somatic males do. This shows that high level ovo+ expression depends on the number of X chromosomes, not the somatic sexual signals. The requirement for ovo+ function is restricted to XX flies. Mutations in ovo have no effect on XY males, X0 males or XY females, but have pronounced effects on germ cell viability in XX females, XX females with sex transformed germ lines, and XX males indicating that ovo+ gene products are required for events occurring only in flies with two X chromosomes.

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