Effects and Role of Estrogens in Avian Gonadal Differentiation

  • Denise Scheib


Biologic investigations of sexual dimorphism and sex determination were initiated in the last century. As early as 1849, Berthold performed testicular abdominal implantations in castrated cocks and observed normal sexual behavior and function. He proposed that the grafted testes act on the organism through the circulation [27]. About 50 years ago, Benoit confirmed Berthold’s interpretation and provided experimental evidence for the controversal ‘interstitial theory’ that assumes hormone production by interstitial cells. In addition, similar cells (fat laden, spongious) were detected in the gonads of chick embryos and their physiologic role was discussed [42]. From 1935 onwards, the feminizing effects of crystallized estrogens observed after the early treatment of chick embryos, together with many other correlated experimental investigations, gave rise to the ‘hormonal theory’ of sex differentiation [60, 61]. Later, histo-chemical and histoenzymological data were used to define the ontogenesis, localization, and activity of steroidogenic cells in the gonads, both during embryonic development and after hatching [41, 42]. Furthermore, biochemical assays with radioactive precursors were introduced to determine hormonal biosynthesis by the gonads in vitro [21, 23, 58].


Chick Embryo Left Ovary Female Gonad Male Gonad Germinal Epithelium 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise Scheib
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut d’Embryologie Expérimentale du CNRS et du Collège de France 49 bisNogent-sur-MarneFrance

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