rphologically Undifferentiated and Differentiated Gonads of Yangtze Sturgeon Acipenser dabryanus
Sturgeon is known as a primitive fish with the ZZ/ZW sex determination system and is highly prized for its valuable caviar. Exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying gonadal differentiation would contribute to broadening our knowledge on the genetic regulation of sex differentiation of fish, enabling improved artificial breeding and management of sturgeons. However, the mechanisms are still poorly understood in sturgeons. This study aimed to profile expression patterns between female and male gonads at morphologically undifferentiated and early differentiated stages and identify vital genes involved in gonadal sex differentiation of sturgeons. The sexes of Yangtze sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus) juveniles were identified via the sex-specific DNA marker and histological observation. Transcriptome analyses were carried out on female and male gonads at 30, 80 and 180 days post-hatching. The results showed that there was a total of 17 overlapped DEGs in the comparison groups of between female and male gonads at the three developmental stages, in which there were three DEGs related to ovarian steroidogenesis, including hsd17b1, foxl2 and cyp19a1. The three DEGs were highly expressed in the female gonads, of which the expression levels were gradually increased with the number of days after hatching. No well-known testis-related genes were found in the overlapped DEGs. Additionally, the expression levels of hsd17b1 and cyp19a1 mRNA were decreased with the knockdown of foxl2 mRNA via siRNA. The results further suggested that foxl2 should play a crucial role in the ovarian differentiation of sturgeons. In conclusion, this study showed that more genes involved in ovarian development than testis development emerged with sexually dimorphic expression during early gonadal sex differentiation, and it provided a preliminary understanding of the molecular regulation on gonadal differentiation of sturgeons.
Keywords: Yangtze sturgeon; foxl2; gonadal differentiation; transcriptome analyses.