The gonadal soma-derived factor (GSDF) is a new member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) superfamily that regulates the proliferation of the primordial germ cells (PGC) in developing embryos and spermatogonia in juvenile male trout. The gsdf transcripts are expressed in the somatic cells supporting germ cell development. In zebrafish, we show that GSDF is encoded by a single copy gene that generates polymorphic transcripts and proteins. We determined that gsdf gene expression occurs before gonadal differentiation and is restricted to the gonads. Gene expression is maintained in adult granulosa cells and Sertoli cells but decreases in the cells that are in contact with meiotic and postmeiotic germ cells. Using zebrafish transgenic lines, we demonstrate that the 2-kb proximal promoter region of the gsdf gene targets high levels of transgene expression in the Sertoli and granulosa cells, and is sufficient to mimic the temporal expression pattern of the endogenous gsdf gene from 16 days postfertilization onward. We identified within the first 500 bp evolutionarily conserved DNA motifs that may be involved in Sertoli and granulosa cell-specific expression. However, the 2-kb proximal promoter region failed to drive efficient expression of the transgene in the gonads in four transgenic medaka lines. We propose that the proximal promoter region can be used to target candidate gene deregulation in zebrafish granulosa and Sertoli cells. Furthermore, the green fluorescent protein-expressing zebrafish lines produced in the present study are new valuable models for cell lineage tracing during sex differentiation and gametogenesis.
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Vol. 85 • No. 6