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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2014 Jul 1;203:10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Jun 19.

Reprint of "Current perspectives on the androgen 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and 5 alpha-reductases in teleost fishes and amphibians".

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University of New Brunswick and Canadian River Institute, NB E2L 4L5, Canada. Electronic address:
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, ON K7K 7B4, Canada. Electronic address:
Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Department, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, ON K7K 7B4, Canada. Electronic address:


The androgen 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a steroidogenic metabolite that has received little attention in non-mammalian species. DHT is produced by the reduction of the double-bond of testosterone by a group of enzymes called 5 alpha-reductases of which there can be multiple isoforms (i.e., srd5a1, srd5a2, and srd5a3). Data from amphibians suggest that the expression of the srd5a genes occurs in early development, and continues until adulthood; however insufficient data exist in fish species, where DHT is thought to be relatively biologically inactive. Here, we demonstrate that fathead minnow (FHM; Pimephales promelas) developing embryos and adults express srd5a enzyme isoforms. During FHM embryogenesis, both srd5a1 and srd5a3 mRNA levels were significantly correlated in expression levels while srd5a2 showed a more unique pattern of expression. In adult FHMs, males had significantly higher levels of srd5a2 in the liver and gonad compared to females. In the male and female liver, transcript levels for srd5a2 were more abundant compared to srd5a1 and srd5a3, suggesting a prominent role for srd5a2 in this tissue. Interestingly, the ovary expressed higher mRNA levels of srd5a3 than the testis. Thus, data suggest that srd5a isoforms can show sexually dimorphic expression patterns in fish. We also conducted a literature review of the biological effects observed in embryonic and adult fish and amphibians after treatments with DHT and DHT-related compounds. Treatments with DHT in teleost fishes and amphibians have resulted in unexpected biological responses that are characteristic of both androgens and anti-androgens. For example, in fish DHT can induce vitellogenin in vitro from male and female hepatocytes and can increase 17β-estradiol production from the teleost ovary. We propose, that to generate further understanding of the roles of DHT in non-mammals, studies are needed that (1) address how DHT is synthesized within tissues of fish and amphibians; (2) examine the full range of biological responses to endogenous DHT, and its interactions with other signaling pathways; and (3) investigate how DHT production varies with reproductive stage. Lastly, we suggest that the Srd5a enzymes can be targets of endocrine disruptors in fish and frogs, which may result in disruptions in the estrogen:androgen balance in aquatic organisms.


5 Alpha-reductases; Androgens; Embryogenesis; Fish; Frogs; Testosterone

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