The objective of the present study was to utilize the male Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) as a model for examining the molecular mechanisms that mediate the physiological transition between somatic and gonadal growth in female teleost fish, and in vertebrates in general. Partial cDNAs that encode multiple forms of vitellogenin (Vtg), which is the major precursor of yolk proteins, were cloned from estrogen-treated males and utilized to develop real-time quantitative RT-PCR assays, which were supplemented by an assay for Vtg immunoreactivity in the plasma. Alignment analyses of the amino acid sequences deduced from the vtg cDNAs revealed three distinct tilapia Vtgs, which were categorized as Aa-, Ab-, and C-type Vtgs. A single injection of male tilapias with 17beta-estradiol (E2) at 5 μg/g body weight significantly increased the plasma E2 and hepatic levels of all three vtg transcripts within 1 day. Plasma E2 levels declined after 3 days, whereas the plasma Vtg immunoreactivity and hepatic levels of the three vtg transcripts continued to increase. Hepatic expression of the estrogen receptor (esr) 1 gene, but not the esr2 gene, also increased markedly 1 day after E2 injection and remained elevated for 5 days. While plasma growth hormone (Gh) levels were unaffected, hepatic expression of transcripts that encoded the Gh receptor and insulin-like growth factor 1 (Igf1) was suppressed by E2, as were the plasma Igf1 levels. These results clearly suggest a distinct negative interplay between the growth and reproductive axes at the molecular level of key hepatic regulatory pathways involved in the control of energy utilization by gonadal and somatic growth processes.
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Vol. 77 • No. 4