Could SRY or an SRY-like gene be at the root of risk for prostate cancer?

A new paper just published in BioEssays puts forward the hypothesis that a gene known as the SRY gene, which directs development of “maleness,” may have specific impact on behavioral and on clinical aspects of being male (e.g., aggressiveness; the so-called “flight or fight” response to stress; even some male-based neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease).

The SRY gene is found on the Y chromosome and therefore is exclusive to males. It is “a key male-determining gene that directs embryonic gonads to develop as testes.” However, it has also been shown that the SRY protein (which is expressed when the SRY gene is “turned on”) can be found in tissues as far removed from the testes as the male human brain. We now know that the SRY protein can be found in the hearts, lungs and brains of men, indicating it has a role way beyond early sex determination.

Lee and Harley are proposing that SRY exerts male-specific effects in tissues outside the testis, such as regulating cardiovascular function and neural activity, both of which play a vital role in our response to stress. Specifically they believe that expression of SRY has a controlling effect on a group of neurotransmitters known as catecholamines.

It occurred to us that expression of SRY or some other exclusively male gene may also have a controlling effect over the fundamental risk for prostate cancer. In other words, over- or under-expression of this or a similar gene may predispose men to risk of prostate cancer, and maybe men who have “normal” control over SRY or some similar SRY-like gene have minimal risk for prostate cancer. Control over expression of such a gene could well be age-related, for example, which might explain the increasing risk for development of prostate cancer as we age.

This is all, of course, complete speculation. However, it might be interesting to know more about how and where the SRY gene is expressed in men and to be able to correlate that expression to the occurrence or non-occurrence of prostate cancer and other male-specific disorders.

It was just a passing thought. For example, could expression (or non-expression) of SRY in response to certain types of stress lead to signals stimulating the production of biochemicals that trigger the development of cancer in male-specific organs like the testes and the prostate? If that was the case, could stimulation or suppression of the expression of this gene be used to prevent the occurrence of prostate cancer?

One Response

  1. This is a very interesting hypothesis. I look forward to future findings based upon targeted research on SRY gene and prostate cancer/control.

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