Protandrous black porgy fish, Acanthopagrus schlegeli, have a striking life cycle, with a mono-male sex differentiation at the juvenile stage and male-to-female sex change at 3 yr of age. We report for the first time integrative molecular data on these interesting phenomena. Sex differentiation occurred between 4 and 5 mo of age. Testicular nr5a4 transcripts increased to high levels during sex differentiation (5 mo old), whereas nr0b1 (Dax-1) did not increase until the age of 8 mo. High nr5a4 and nr0b1 expression in testicular tissue, in contrast to low nr5a4 and high nr0b1 expression in ovarian tissue, were found in the male phase of 0 - to 2-yr-old fish (before sex change). Increased nr5a4, decreased nr0b1, and increased cyp19a1a were found in the ovarian tissues undergoing development from primary oocytes to vitellogenic oocytes during the natural sex change in 2 -yr-old fish. Removal of testicular tissue in 1 -yr-old fish resulted in both increased ovarian nr5a4 and genes in the steroidogenic pathway and decreased nr0b1 together with the appearance of vitellogenic oocytes. Ovary developed into the active stage with the increased expression of star and steroidogenic enzymes, including aromatase, in concordance with the decreased expression of nr0b1 in the testis-excised fish. Long-term estradiol (E2) administration resulted in early sex change, but the ovaries were mainly with primary oocytes. Low nr5a4, high nr0b1, and low steroidogenic enzymes, including cyp19a1a expression, were also observed in these E2-fed ovarian tissues. Thus, nr5a4 but not nr0b1 was associated with male sex differentiation. Testicular development required cooperative functions of both nr5a4 and nr0b1. The present study suggests that nr5a4 and nr0b1 have an antagonistic interaction for the oocyte development. Testicular tissue exerted inhibitory effects on ovarian development. It is probable that nr0b1 regulates the timing of vitellogenic development and sex change in black porgy.
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Vol. 78 • No. 2