Int. J. Dev. Biol. 49: 417 - 425 (2005)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.041916ns
© UPV/EHU Press

P450 aromatase expression in the temperature-sensitive sexual differentiation of salamander (Hynobius retardatus) gonads

Natsuko Sakata, Yoichiro Tamori And Masami Wakahara*

Division of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

ABSTRACT Sex differentiation of gonads in amphibians is believed to be controlled genetically, but altered epigenetically or environmentally. When larvae of the salamander Hynobius retardatus were reared at defined temperatures from hatching to metamorphic stages, a high temperature (28ºC) induced exclusively female gonads (ovaries), whereas intermediate (20 and 23ºC) or lower (16ºC) temperatures produced a 1:1 sex ratio of the morphological gonads. The thermosensitive period was determined to be restricted from 15 to 30 days after hatching, just before or when sexual differentiation occurred. Hynobius P450 aromatase (P450arom) cDNA was isolated from adult gonads and the partial nucleotide or deduced amino acid sequences were determined, showing a high level of identity with various vertebrate species. The P450arom gene was expressed predominantly in the adult ovary and brain, weakly in testis, but not in other somatic organs. A typical sexual dimorphism in P450arom expression was detected in normally developing larvae by a quantitative competitive RT-PCR; strong expression in the female gonads but very weak in male gonads. The dimorphism was detected much earlier than the morphological sexual differentiation of the gonads. When larvae were reared at the female-producing temperature (28ºC), strong expression was detected in all the temperature-treated larvae, suggesting that P450arom was up-regulated, even in genetic males. Our results confirm the importance of the P450arom regulation in the sexual differentiation of gonads and demonstrate that an up-regulation of P450arom is involved in the process of temperature-sensitive sex reversal in this species.

Keywords:

P450 aromatase, GSD, TSD, sex differentiation, competitive RT-PCR, salamander

*Corresponding author e-mail: chami@sci.hokudai.ac.jp