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Sex Determination in Homo sapiens as a Multi-Step Process: Potential for Development of Variants and Sex Differences in Disease Risk

DOI: 10.4236/jbise.2024.171002, PP. 13-34

Keywords: Sex Determination, Variant Development, Fidelity of Sex Determination, Biological Sex Determination, Species Variation

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Reproduction via cis-binary mechanisms appears to have evolved fairly early in the evolution of complex organisms, and a system committed to prior to evolution of humans. While the evolution of a chromosomal-specific approach has been a successful strategy for survival of a large variety of species including humans, the fidelity of sex determination leading to 100% cis-binary outcomes is not achieved in many species, with evidence for homosexual or bisexual behaviour evident in more than 1500 species. Thus, such outcomes indicates that sex determination is a multi-step process and not a single event, and as such, could lead to the appearance of variants during the process which developed much earlier than humans. Variants could arise either due to intrinsic variation in the steps of determination, or also be influenced by environmental factors of a biological or psychological nature. In contrast to homosexual variants which do not require interventions such as hormone therapy or surgery, expression of gender dysphoria, is more based in psychology, but also has biological underpinnings and can be influenced by such hormonal interventions and surgery. While the numbers of those with gender dysphoria is small (~0.6% - 1.0% of population), the attention given to this issue raises the possibility of biological and psychological environmental factors impacting the emergence of some of those expressing gender dysphoria. Furthermore, transitioning from male-to-female or female-to-male can have consequences regarding disease risks latter in life, including the appearance of autoimmune diseases. This review will attempt to review some of the evidence regarding sex determination, discuss why the system has potentially not been improved upon during evolution, how a potential role for sex chromosome function on neurodevelopment may be central to variation in humans, and how commitment to the current strategy is likely integrated into other sex-related events such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause to ensure species survival. It will also discuss how variants in sex determination could contribute to sex differences in disease risk and how epigenetic modifications could play a role in such risk.


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