Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) transports cholesterol, the substrate for steroid synthesis, to the inner membranes of mitochondria. It is well known that estrogen is essential for female sex determination/differentiation in fish. However, no reports showed that the conventional StAR, which was supposed to be essential for estrogen production, was expressed in female gonads during the critical timing of sex determination/differentiation. In this study, two different StAR isoforms, named as StAR1 and StAR2, were characterized from the gonads of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). Phylogenetic and synteny analysis revealed that two StAR genes existed in teleosts, Xenopus and chicken indicating that the duplication event occurred before the divergence of teleosts and tetrapods. Real-time PCR revealed that StAR1 was dominantly expressed in the testis, head kidney and kidney; while StAR2 was expressed exclusively in the gonads. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry demonstrated that StAR1 was expressed in the interrenal cells of the head kidney and Leydig cells of the testis; while StAR2 was expressed in the Leydig cells of the testis and the interstitial cells of the ovary. Ontogenic analysis demonstrated that StAR2 was expressed abundantly from 5. days after hatching (dah) in the somatic cells in XX gonads, whereas in XY gonads, both StARs could be detected from 30. dah until adulthood. Intraperitoneal injection of human chorionic gonadotropin experiments showed that expression of StAR1 and 2 was significantly elevated at 8. h and persisted until 24. h after injection in the testis. Taken together, our data suggested that StAR1 is likely to be required for cortisol production in the head kidney, and StAR2 is probably involved in estrogen production during early sex differentiation in XX gonads. In contrast, both StARs might be required for androgen production in testes. For the first time, our data demonstrated that two fish StARs might be involved in steroidogenesis in a tissue and developmental stage dependent manner.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology