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Gene. 2012 Sep 1;505(2):221-32. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.06.021. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Sex dimorphic expression of five dmrt genes identified in the Atlantic cod genome. The fish-specific dmrt2b diverged from dmrt2a before the fish whole-genome duplication.

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Nofima Marin, Muninbakken 9-13, N-9291 Tromsø, Norway.


The Doublesex and Mab-3 related transcription factors (Dmrt) are characterised by the zinc finger-like DM domain binding similar DNA sequences, but show different spatio-temporal expression patterns and functions throughout ontogenesis. Dmrt1 is the master regulator of sex determination in very distant metazoans, while Dmrt2 and Dmrt4 are of crucial importance in vertebrate somitogenesis and neurogenesis, respectively. To elucidate the evolutionary divergence of the fish dmrt genes, we examined the expression patterns and the chromosomal synteny of the five dmrt genes identified in the Atlantic cod genome. Quantitative PCR analyses of cod dmrt1, dmrt2a, dmrt3, dmrt4 and dmrt5 revealed distinct expression patterns in the embryo and larvae, and indicated conserved extragonadal functions during early development. Several dmrt genes seem to be involved in the sexual differentiation of gonads and brain, but the sex-dimorphic expression patterns differed substantially between teleosts, suggesting functional switch between Dmrt members. The dmrt2a-dmrt3-dmrt1 cluster was found to be located in a conserved syntenic region, and the flanking genes have become duplicated in teleosts and are closely linked in a paralogous region lacking the dmrt cluster. Similarly, the region containing the fish-specific dmrt2b gene was found to have a paralogous region without a dmrt2b duplicate in a separate linkage group in the teleost genomes. We propose that the teleost segments paralogous to the dmrt2a- and dmrt2b regions, respectively, were formed through the fish-specific whole genome duplication (3R), while dmrt2a and dmrt2b originated from the second round (2R) of whole genome duplication of the ancestral dmrt2. The dmrt2b paralog seems to have been lost in Atlantic cod as in tetrapods and may be a pseudogene in pufferfish, while dmrt2a and dmrt2b have acquired different functions in zebrafish. Contrasting with the retained duplicates of dmrt flanking genes, the massive losses of dmrt duplicates in the vertebrate tetraploidizations suggest that their functions are exquisitely sensitive to gene dosage.

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