Genetic Origin Of Some Sex Differences Among Human Beings

Author: Childs, B.

Description: Sexual reproduction helps to ensure the survival of species by providing opportunities for new combinations of chromosomes in individuals. Organisms have evolved means to accomplish this end by establishing special sex-determining chromosomes which must contain the genes which decide the reproductive attributes of the individual. This decision sets in motion a train of events determining many characteristics related to and stemming from the reproductive sex of the individual which, taken in the aggregate, formulate much of his or her role in life as a male or female. Differences between the sexes are thus created which sometimes appear to be unrelated to reproductive functions, but which are traceable ultimately to them, and some of these differences might represent a hazard to one or other sex, due either to biological or cultural inequalities.

Though there are occasional errors and imperfections of sex determination, the mechanism is on the whole a good one and even unsophisticated people are seldom unsure or imprecise in the diagnosis of sex among human beings. But establishment of the sex chromosomes in the forms they have taken in various organisms has resulted in certain consequences which, though they might be beneficial in some instances, certainly contribute to inequalities between the two sexes in ways not necessarily related to the reproductive aspects of sex. The disparity in size between the X and Y chromosomes, for example, means that the homogametic sex (female) is diploid with regard to many loci, while the heterogametic sex (males) must be always haploid. If these chromosomes contain genes which control functions apart from aspects of reproductive sex, even though these be compensated, the genes will be making contributions to aspects of maleness and femaleness which are not accommodated in the usual, practical definition of sex.

Subject Headings: Agammaglobulinemia; Autoimmune Diseases; Blood Group Antigens; Chromosomes; Color Vision Defects; Diabetes Insipidus; Genetics, Medical; Glucosephosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency; Glucosephosphates; Hemophilia A; Humans; Hypoparathyroidism; Mutation; Renal Tubular Transport, Inborn Errors; Rickets; Sex Characteristics; Vitamin D; Agammaglobulinemia; Autoimmune Diseases; Blood Groups; Chromosomes; Color Blindness; Diabetes Insipidus; Genetics, Human; Glucosephosphate Dehy- Drogenase Deficiency; Hemophilia; Hypoparathyroidism; Mutation; Renal Tubular Transport, Inborn Errors; Review; Rickets; Sex Characteristics; Vitamin D

Subject headings:

Publication year: 1965

Journal or book title: Pediatrics

Volume: 35


Pages: 798-812

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2279