Two nuclear receptors, Ad4BP/SF-1 and Dax-1, are essential regulators for development and function of the mammalian reproductive system. Similarity in expression sites, such as adrenal glands, gonads, pituitary, and hypothalamus, suggests a functional interaction, and the phenotype similarities were manifested in Ad4BP/SF-1-deficient mice and in cases of natural human mutations of Dax-1. In this study, quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analyses revealed that expression profiles of Dax-1 in embryonic gonads are different between the two sexes and also from those of Ad4BP/SF-1. Immunohistochemical analyses clarified the spatial and temporal expressions of the Dax-1 protein during development of tissues composing the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. During gonadal development, Dax-1 occurred after Ad4BP/SF-1 exhibiting a sexually dimorphic expression pattern at indifferent stages, indicating a possibility of Dax-1 involvement in earliest sex differentiation. When cord formation begins in the testis at embryonic day 12.5 (E12.5), Dax-1 was expressed strongly in Sertoli cells, but its expression level markedly decreased in Sertoli cells and increased in interstitial cells between E13.5 and E17.5. In the female, Dax-1 was strongly expressed in the entire ovarian primordium from E12.5 until E14.5, and then its expression level was decreased and limited to cells near the surface epithelium between E17.5 and postnatal day 0 (P0). During postnatal development of the testis, the variable staining of Dax-1 in Sertoli cells was detected as early as P7 and Dax-1-expressing Leydig cells became rare. In the postnatal ovary, Dax-1 expression was detected in granulosa cells with variable staining intensity, and occasionally in interstitial cells. During pituitary organogenesis, Dax-1 but not Ad4BP/SF-1 was expressed in the dorsal part of Rathke's pouch from E9.5. Later in development after E14.5, the distribution of Dax-1 overlapped with that of Ad4BP/SF-1, being restricted to gonadotropic cells in the anterior pituitary. In the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), Dax-1 and Ad4BP/SF-1 were mostly colocalized throughout the embryonic and postnatal development. Thus, the coexpression of Dax-1 and Ad4BP/SF-1 indicates their closely related functions in the development of the reproductive system. Furthermore, we noticed the presence of cells that express Dax-1 but not Ad4BP/SF-1, further indicating additional functions of Dax-1 in an Ad4BP/ SF-1-independent molecular mechanism.
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