Role of Ahch in gonadal development and gametogenesis.
Ahch (also known as Dax1) encodes a transcription factor that has been implicated in sex determination and gonadal differentiation. Mutations in human AHC cause X-linked, adrenal hypoplasia congenita (AHC) and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH). Duplication of the Xp21 dosage-sensitive sex reversal (DSS) region, which contains the Ahch locus, and transgenic overexpression of Ahch cause male-to-female sex reversal. Using Cre-mediated disruption of Ahch, we have generated a mouse model of AHC-HH that allows the function of Ahch to be examined in both males and females. Although Ahch has been postulated to function as an ovarian determination gene, the loss of Ahch function in females does not affect ovarian development or fertility. Ahch is instead essential for the maintenance of spermatogenesis. Lack of Ahch causes progressive degeneration of the testicular germinal epithelium independent of abnormalities in gonadotropin and testosterone production and results in male sterility. Ahch is thus not an ovarian determining gene, but rather has a critical role in spermatogenesis.