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In Biology, What Is an SRY?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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The SRY, also known as sex determining region Y, is a section of genetic code found on the Y chromosome that causes fetuses to develop male sex characteristics like gonads. It is an important part of the genetic code in men, and can be found, for those interested in precise locations, between base pairs 2,654,895 and 2,655,791. Disorders involving the SRY gene can cause a number of symptoms related to fertility and sexual development, and may vary in severity, depending on the nature of the mutation that causes the disorder.

This gene is responsible for producing a protein that triggers the development of testes in the fetus, resulting in the production of male sex hormones and the development of male sexual characteristics. In fetal development, the SRY protein appears to interact with other DNA not on the Y chromosome, triggering a series of responses as the fetus grows. Variations in the SRY gene can cause errors with this process, leading to developmental problems ranging from infertility to the lack of male sexual characteristics.

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In some people, the Y chromosome is lacking the SRY gene or the gene is so mutated that it cannot function correctly, leading to a lack of gonads and a condition known as Swyer syndrome, where despite having an XY karyotype, they develop into women. Conversely, if the SRY gene is translocated to an X chromosome, a person with an XX karyotype develops into a man. This is known as XX male syndrome. Both of these conditions are rare.

Extensive study of the SRY region of the Y chromosome has been undertaken to learn more about male fetal development, the emergence of sexual characteristics, and what happens when genetics goes wrong. The outcomes of this research are applied in a variety of ways, including infertility treatment and the study of the influence of environmental factors like pollution on fetal development.

Sex determination in fetal development involves interactions between the SRY gene and the genetic code of the developing fetus, but problems can occur even when this gene is not mutated. Sometimes, errors in development cause situations like ambiguous genitalia, where a person develops genitals with an intermediate appearance. When people with genetic and developmental disorders involving their sex characteristics are born, there are a number of treatment options available. Many advocates recommend allowing the child to grow up and then make a decision about treatment, as many factors can influence gender development.

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