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Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar;109(3):257-64.

Sexual dimorphism of brain aromatase activity in medaka: induction of a female phenotype by estradiol.

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  • 1Marine Biotoxins Program, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration-National Ocean Service, Charleston, SC 29412, USA.


In this study we identified sex-dependent dimorphism of brain aromatase in the teleost medaka and examined its regulation by sex steriods. We first investigated differential distribution of brain aromatase activity in sexually mature male and female medaka in serial coronal sections of the brain and identified the hypothalamic nuclei contained in each section using the brain atlas of medaka. In the brain of male medaka, high levels of activity are localized in sections containing the preoptic (POA) and suprachiasmatic nuclei (SC) (63-75 fmol/hr) and low levels in the nuclei periventricular dorsalis (HD), ventralis (HV), and caudalis (Hc), nuclei diffusus of lobulus inferiores (NDIL), and nuclei tuberi anteriores (TA) and posteriores (TP) (< 25 fmol/hr). In the brain of female medaka high aromatase activity is localized in sections containing the HD, HV, Hc, NDIL, TA, and TP (85-80 fmol/hr) and highly variable levels in the POA and SC (23-70 fmol/hr). The concentration and time dependency of the exposure of male medaka to estradiol on the total brain aromatase activity and morphologic sex characteristics were determined next. Estradiol increased the activity of brain aromatase in a concentration-dependent manner at 2.5 and 25 microg/L, but the increase was lower at higher concentrations of the hormone. The effect was time dependent, gradually increasing up to the fifth day of exposure, after which it reached a plateau. Estradiol induction of brain aromatase analyzed using Lineweaver-Burke plots of saturation assays revealed a non-first-order reaction. The results indicate that a positive feedback mechanism regulates brain aromatase and imply that the sexual dimorphic distribution of aromatase may be highly sensitive to physiologic cues and environmental perturbations in fish.

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