In fish, FSH is generally important for early gonadal development and vitellogenesis. As in mammals, FSH is a heterodimer composed of an alpha subunit that is noncovalently associated with the hormone-specific beta subunit. The objective of the present study was to express glycosylated, properly folded, and biologically active tilapia FSH (tFSH) using the Pichia pastoris expression system. Using this material, we aimed to develop a specific ELISA and to enable the study of FSH response to GnRH. The methylotrophic yeast P. pastoris was used to coexpress recombinant genes formed by fusion of mating factor alpha leader and tilapia fshb and cga coding sequences. Western blot analysis of tilapia pituitary FSH, resolved by SDS-PAGE, yielded a band of 15 kDa, while recombinant tFSH beta (rtFSH beta) and rtFSH beta alpha had molecular masses of 17–18 kDa and 26–30 kDa, respectively. Recombinant tFSH beta alpha was found to bear only N-linked carbohydrates. Recombinant tFSH beta alpha significantly enhanced 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) and estradiol secretion from tilapia testes and ovaries, respectively, in a dose-dependent manner (similar to tilapia pituitary extract, affinity-purified pituitary FSH, and porcine FSH). Using antibodies raised against rtFSH beta, FSH-containing cells were localized adjacent to hypothalamic nerve fibers ramifying in the proximal pars distalis (PPD), while LH cells were localized in a more peripheral region of the PPD. Moreover, FSH is under the control of hypothalamic decapeptide GnRH, an effect that was abolished through the use of specific bioneutralizing antisera, anti-rtFSH beta. It also reduced basal secretion of 11-KT.
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Vol. 76 • No. 4