Sex determination, an integral precursor to sexual reproduction, is required to generate morphologically distinct sexes. The molecular components of sex-determination pathways regulating sexual differentiation have been identified and characterized in different organisms. The Drosophila doublesex (dsx) gene at the bottom of the sex-determination cascade is the best characterized candidate so far, and is conserved from worms (mab3 of Caenorhabditis elegans) to mammals (Dmrt-1). Studies of dsx homologues from insect species belonging to different orders position them at the bottom of their sex-determination cascade. The dsx homologues are regulated by a series of upstream regulators that show amazing diversity in different insect species. These results support the Wilkin’s hypothesis that evolution of the sex-determination cascade has taken place in reverse order, the bottom most gene being most conserved and the upstream genes having been recruited at different times during evolution. The pre-mRNA of dsx is sex-specifically spliced to encode male or female-specific transcription factors that play an important role in the regulation of sexually dimorphic characters in different insect species. The generalization that dsx is required for somatic sexual differentiation culminated with its functional analysis through transgenesis and knockdown experiments in diverse species of insects. This brief review will focus on the similarities and variations of dsx homologues that have been investigated in insects to date.
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