Background: Three-spot wrasse, Halichoeres trimaculatus, is a marine protogynous hermaphrodite fish. Individuals mature either as initial phase (IP) males or females. Appropriate social cues induce the sex change from IP female to terminal phase (TP) male. However, the molecular mechanisms behind such a sex change remain largely unknown. Recently, the forkhead transcription factor 2 (Foxl2) was identified as an essential regulator of vertebrate ovarian development/function/phenotype. Inspired by this information, we characterized the expression patterns of Foxl2 in the protogynous wrasse assuming Foxl2 as the female-specific marker in this species. Methods: First, we clonedFoxl2 cDNA from ovary by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) followed by rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE). Next, we analysed expression pattern of Foxl2 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein in gonads of different sexual phases by real time quantitative PCR assay and flour fluorescence immunohistochemical method, respectively. Additionally, we studied the changes in Foxl2 expression pattern during aromatase inhibitor (AI)-induced sex change. Results: The amino acid sequence (306 AA) of wrasse Foxl2, especially the forkhead domain, shows high identity with that of other reported teleost Foxl2s. Quite unexpectedly, no sexual dimorphism was observable between the testes and ovary in the expression pattern of Foxl2. In female phase fish, signals for Foxl2 protein were detectable in the granulosa cells, but not the theca cells. Transcript levels of Foxl2 in the testes of IP and TP males were identical to that in the ovaries of females and, further, Foxl2 protein was found to be localized in the interstitial cells including tubules and Leydig cells. Treatment with AI induced sex change in male gonads and an up-regulation was seen in the expression of Foxl2 in these gonads. Conclusions: Unlike in other vertebrates, including teleosts, Foxl2 may have a different role in the naturally sex changing fishes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies