The testis is a tightly controlled dynamic tissue. In mammals, there is growing evidence that estrogen plays a role in the regulation of testicular functions. In teleosts, high levels of 17beta-estradiol (E2) in serum correlate with the end of spermatogenesis, spawning, and the initiation of postspawning stages when spermatogonia are the main cell types in the testis. Moreover, E2 modulates leukocyte functions in several teleost species. We hypothesized, therefore, that E2 would induce the infiltration of acidophilic granulocytes and cause a resumption of testicular cell proliferation in spermatogenically active gilthead seabream males. Several studies of this species have reported that supraphysiological doses of E2 are needed to induce histological and developmental changes in males. In fact, as gilthead seabream is a protandrous hermaphrodite teleost, long exposures (6–14 wk) to high doses of E2 result in feminization of the males. Taking all this into account, we sharply increased E2 levels during short times by i.p. injecting E2 diluted in coconut oil as the vehicle and sampled the fish after 7, 13, and 18 days to assess the effects that E2 had on spermatogenesis. It was observed that E2 levels in plasma increased, while 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) and testosterone (T) levels remained unaltered. However, 11-KT and T levels strongly increased in control fish 18 days postinjection. The most relevant result of our study was that E2 accelerates the final events of spermatogenesis, inhibits the proliferation of spermatogonia in early stages, and induces some of the processes that usually occur during postspawning, such as the infiltration of acidophilic granulocytes and the apoptosis of primary spermatogonia. Strikingly, neither the shedding of spermatozoa nor an increase in the proliferative rate of spermatogonia stem cells was observed, probably because of the lack of other necessary stimuli, such as the increase in T levels that takes place during normal postspawning.
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Vol. 76 • No. 1