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J Exp Zool A Ecol Genet Physiol. 2010 Aug 1;313(7):421-31. doi: 10.1002/jez.612.

Ontogenesis of gonadal aromatase gene expression in atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia) populations with genetic and temperature-dependent sex determination.

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  • 1School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5000, USA.


Cytochrome P450 aromatase (P450arom), an enzyme that converts testosterone to 17beta-estradiol, is an important mediator of sex determination in teleosts with genetic sex determination (GSD) and temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). We compared the ontogenetic expression of P450arom in two populations of Atlantic silversides, Menidia menidia, which exhibit TSD (South Carolina) or GSD (Nova Scotia, Canada) using quantitative, real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Embryos and newly hatched larvae were reared at an intermediate sex ratio-producing temperature (21 degrees C), and older larvae and juveniles were reared at temperatures that feminize (15 degrees C) and masculinize (28 degrees C) to assess the temperature response of P450arom during development. Before sex determination, embryos and newly-hatched larvae displayed negligible P450arom expression, indicating minimal upregulation of this gene before sex determination. Gene expression increased in both populations during sex differentiation. Nova Scotia fish with GSD exhibited presumptive male- and female-like expression levels during early sex differentiation that were not influenced by temperature. South Carolina fish displayed low levels of expression at 28 degrees C with significantly heightened expression in some individuals at 15 degrees C, indicating that P450arom is temperature sensitive in the population with TSD. Populations also differed in the timing and maximal levels of P450arom expression, with fish from Nova Scotia exhibiting both the highest and earliest increase in expression in presumptive females. Our results support the hypothesis that P450arom is involved in female sex differentiation in this species, but is only responsive to temperature in M. menidia populations that exhibit TSD.

(c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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