Cytochrome P450 aromatase (CYP19) is the terminal enzyme in the steroidogenic pathway that converts androgens (e.g., testosterone) into estrogens (e.g., estradiol). Regulation of this gene dictates the ratio of androgens to estrogens; therefore, appropriate expression of this enzyme is critical for reproduction as well as being pivotal in sex differentiation for most vertebrates. It is assumed that most vertebrates have a single CYP19 gene that is regulated by multiple tissue-specific promoter regions. However, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has two genes (CYP19a and CYP19b), each encoding a significantly different protein and possessing its own regulatory mechanism. The primary purpose of this study was to determine the pattern of expression of each of the CYP19 genes in the developing zebrafish. A fluorescent-based method of real-time, quantitative RT-PCR provided the sensitivity and specificity to determine transcript abundance in single embryos/juveniles harvested at days 0 through 41 days post-fertilization (dpf), which encompasses the developmental events of sex determination and gonadal differentiation. CYP19 transcripts could be detected as early as 3 or 4 dpf, (CYP19a and CYP19b, respectively) and peak abundance was detected on day five. In general, the CYP19 genes differed significantly in the ontogeny of their expression. In most cases, the gonadal form of CYP19 (CYP19a) was more abundant than the brain form (CYP19b); however, unlike CYP19a, the pattern of CYP19b expression could be clearly segregated into two populations, suggesting an association with sex differentiation. Pharmacological steroids (ethinylestradiol and 17α-methyltestosterone) enhanced the expression of the CYP19b gene at all three days examined (4, 6, and 10 dpf). These data suggest that the timely and appropriate expression of CYP19 is important in development and that the expression of CYP19b (the "extra-gonadal" form) may be associated with sexual differentiation if not sexual determination.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology