The brain of teleosts is known for its strong aromatase expression, exhibiting unique features compared with other vertebrates. Among these features is the high sensitivity of aromatase B (the product of cyp19a1b) to estrogens. This effect involves the binding of estrogen receptors on an estrogen-responsive element (ERE) of the cyp19a1b promoter. Given the presence of potential androgen-responsive elements (AREs) on this promoter, in vivo and in vitro effects of androgens were studied. Using immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR on zebrafish embryos, we found that cyp19a1b is upregulated by testosterone, an aromatizable androgen, and by 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a nonaromatizable androgen, suggesting a potential androgenic regulation of cyp19a1b through androgen receptors (ARs). To assess a putative direct regulation of the cyp19a1b gene by ARs, we transfected U251MG cells with zebrafish AR together with a luciferase reporter gene driven by 3000 bp of the proximal cyp19a1b promoter containing the ERE and potential AREs. Interestingly, although zebrafish AR activated luciferase reporter genes controlled by AREs, they failed to induce the cyp19a1b-luciferase construct. These data suggest that the androgenic regulation of cyp19a1b does not involve AR. We further showed that regulation of the cyp19a1b gene by testosterone is, in fact, due to aromatization, whereas the effect of DHT involves conversion into 5alpha-androstane-3beta,17beta-diol (betadiol), a metabolite of DHT with known estrogenic activity. The blockage of the androgen regulation of cyp19a1b expression using antiestrogens further confirmed the involvement of estrogen receptors in mediating these effects.
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Vol. 80 • No. 5