Influences of sex on gene expression discussed at annual conference

November 19, 2002

New discoveries on the interplay between genes and biological sex were the topic of discussions at the Third Annual Conference on Sex and Gene Expression (SAGE III), hosted by the Society for Women's Health Research, in San Jose, CA, April 4-7, 2002. The annual conference is a unique interdisciplinary forum for basic research scientists to share data and explore the frontiers of how biological sex influences the expression of genetic information throughout life, from embryonic development through adulthood. Leading established researchers and outstanding new researchers in biochemistry, genetics and molecular, developmental and cellular biology attended the by-invitation-only meeting. A report from SAGE III is available by contacting Jennifer Brindise at (202) 496-5015 or

Highlights of the first panel, which covered model systems for understanding sex differences in development, included a discussion of the genetic regulation of sex determination in fruit flies and nematodes as well as the contributions of genes on the X and Y chromosomes to brain development in birds and rodents.

Discussion on sex and gene expression in the immune system included the effect of fetal cells remaining in maternal circulation, termed microchimerism, and the role of these fetal cells in the development of autoimmune diseases. The effects of sex steroid hormones - estrogen, progesterone and testosterone - on the development and progression of autoimmune diseases were also discussed. Caroline Whitacre, PhD, of Ohio State University, discussed the beneficial effect of pregnancy on the clinical course of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects women two to three times more than men.

Sex hormones play a role in the development and progression of prostate and breast cancers. Despite diverse genetic and environmental factors contributing to prostrate and breast cancer, Diane Robins, PhD, University of Michigan Medical School, explained that both tumors initially are steroid hormone dependent. Hormonal aspects of bone formation and the development of dry eye syndromes were also discussed.

Workshops and poster presentations rounded out the meeting, allowing most participants to present their research.
To order a copy of the SAGE report, contact Jennifer Brindise at or (202) 496-5015.

Society for Women's Health Research

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