Impact of X/Y genes and sex hormones on mouse neuroanatomy.
Vousden DA., Corre C., Spring S., Qiu LR., Metcalf A., Cox E., Lerch JP., Palmert MR.
Biological sex influences brain anatomy across many species. Sex differences in brain anatomy have classically been attributed to differences in sex chromosome complement (XX versus XY) and/or in levels of gonadal sex steroids released from ovaries and testes. Using the four core genotype (4CG) mouse model in which gonadal sex and sex chromosome complement are decoupled, we previously found that sex hormones and chromosomes influence the volume of distinct brain regions. However, recent studies suggest there may be more complex interactions between hormones and chromosomes, and that circulating steroids can compensate for and/or mask underlying chromosomal effects. Moreover, the impact of pre vs post-pubertal sex hormone exposure on this sex hormone/sex chromosome interplay is not well understood. Thus, we used whole brain high-resolution ex-vivo MRI of intact and pre-pubertally gonadectomized 4CG mice to investigate two questions: 1) Do circulating steroids mask sex differences in brain anatomy driven by sex chromosome complement? And 2) What is the contribution of pre- versus post-pubertal hormones to sex-hormone-dependent differences in brain anatomy? We found evidence of both cooperative and compensatory interactions between sex chromosomes and sex hormones in several brain regions, but the interaction effects were of low magnitude. Additionally, most brain regions affected by sex hormones were sensitive to both pre- and post-pubertal hormones. This data provides further insight into the biological origins of sex differences in brain anatomy.