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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2008 Jan 1;155(1):116-25. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

Influence of reproductive activity, sex steroids, and seasonality on epigonal organ cellular proliferation in the skate (Leucoraja erinacea).

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Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


In elasmobranchs, the epigonal organ, a unique leukopoietic immune tissue, is associated with the gonads. As the ovaries increase in size during reproductive activity, the overall mass of the epigonal organ does not change. However, immunohistochemistry (proliferating cell nuclear antigen Ab) demonstrated more proliferative activity and extravasation of epigonal leukocytes from blood vessels in reproductively active (RA) skates (Leucoraja erinacea) than in non-reproductively active (NRA) skates. In addition, [(3)H]thymidine incorporation was greater in epigonal leukocytes from RA skates than in leukocytes from NRA skates. Plasma from RA skates, but not from NRA skates, increased proliferation of epigonal leukocytes in vitro, an effect that was not seen using steroid-free plasma. In contrast to the stimulatory effect of plasma on leukocyte proliferation, addition of steroids (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and dexamethasone) in vitro decreased [(3)H]thymidine incorporation. While the inhibitory response to steroids was seasonally variable, (3)[H]thymidine incorporation was always highest in RA animals, in which plasma steroid levels were also consistently highest. These studies suggest functional interactions between reproductive and immune tissues in the skate, and that cellular turnover in epigonal tissue may be influenced by gonadal activity.

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