Expression of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II, and IGF type I receptor (IGF-1R) genes was studied in gonads at different developmental stages of the protandrous hermaphroditic species the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and Northern blot analysis. Both IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA levels were highest in bisexual gonads and decreased during gonadal development. Regardless of the stage of gametogenesis, IGF-II mRNA levels exceeded those of IGF-I. Transcripts for IGF-1R RNA were detected in gonads at all stages studied. A major transcript of 11 kb was found in gonads and in gill arch and brain, but it was not found in liver and muscle. Distribution of the two types of IGF-1R and IGF-I in gonads was studied by immunohistochemistry. Immunoreactive IGF-I was found in the granulosa and theca cells of follicles at different vitellogenic stages and in oocytes at the chromatin-nucleolus and perinucleolus stage. In the testis, immunoreactive IGF-I was found in somatic cells of the cyst wall, interstitial cells, and spermatogonia A. In addition, IGF-1R was detected in the membrane of previtellogenic oocytes and in the theca and granulosa cells of vitellogenic and late vitellogenic follicles. In the testis, a positive reaction was identified in spermatogonia A and spermatids for the germ cells and in somatic cells of the cyst walls and interstitial cells. Local expression and production of IGFs and their receptors in fish gonads support a role for the IGF system in fish gonadal physiology.
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