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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2004 Mar;136(1):122-33.

Molecular cloning of the estrogen and progesterone receptors of the American alligator.

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  • 1Center for Integrative Bioscience, National Institute for Basic Biology, Okazaki National Research Institutes, Higashiyama, Myodaiji, Okazaki, Japan.


Steroid hormones perform many essential roles in vertebrates during embryonic development, reproduction, growth, water balance, and responses to stress. The estrogens are essential for normal reproductive activity in female and male vertebrates and appear to have direct actions during sex determination in some vertebrates. To begin to understand the molecular mechanisms of estrogen action in alligators, we have isolated cDNAs encoding the estrogen receptors (ER) from the ovary. Degenerate PCR primers specific to ER were designed and used to amplify alligator ovary RNA. Two different DNA fragments (ERalpha and ERbeta) were obtained and the full-length alligator ERalpha cDNA was obtained using 5' and 3' RACE. The inferred amino acid sequence of alligator ERalpha (aERalpha) was very similar to the chicken ERalpha (91% identity), although phylogenetic analyses suggested profound differences in the rate of sequence evolution for vertebrate ER sequences. We also isolated partial DNA fragments encoding ERbeta and the progesterone receptor (PR) of the alligator, both of which show strong sequence similarities to avian ERbeta and PR. We examined the expression levels of these three steroid receptors (ERalpha, ERbeta, and PR) in the ovary of juvenile alligators and observed detectable levels of all three receptors. Quantitative RT-PCR showed that gonadal ERalpha transcript levels in juvenile alligators decreased after E2 treatment whereas ERbeta and PR transcripts were not changed. These results provide tools that will allow future studies examining the regulation and ontogenic expression of steroid receptors in alligators and expand our knowledge of vertebrate steroid receptor evolution.

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