Genetic control of sex determination in insects has been best characterized in Drosophila melanogaster, where the master gene Sxl codes for RNA that is sex specifically spliced to produce a functional protein only in females. SXL regulates the sex-specific splicing of transformer (tra) RNA which, in turn, regulates the splicing of dsx RNA to produce functional male and female proteins. In the Australian sheep blowfly (Lucilia cuprina), the tra gene (Lctra) is required for female development and Lctra transcripts are sex-specifically spliced such that only female Lctra mRNA codes for functional protein. In males, a factor encoded by the Y-linked male determining gene is thought to prevent the female-mode of splicing of Lctra RNA. To further our understanding of the sex determination regulatory hierarchy in L. cuprina, we have isolated the dsx gene (Lcdsx) from this species. We found that the Lcdsx transcripts are sex-specifically spliced in a similar manner as their counterparts in D. melanogaster, housefly and tephritids. The LcDSX proteins are well conserved and the male form of DSX contains a motif encoded by a male-specific exon that is within the female-specific intron. This intron/exon arrangement had previously been found only in the housefly dsx gene, suggesting this may be a unique feature of dsx genes of Calyptratae species.
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