In mammals, the primary role of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) during development is the regression of Müllerian ducts in males. These structures otherwise develop into fallopian tubes, oviducts, and upper vagina, as in females. This highly conserved function is retained in birds and is supported by the high levels of AMH expression in developing testes. In mammals, AMH expression is controlled partly by the transcription factor, SOX9. However, in the chicken, AMH mRNA expression precedes that of SOX9 , leading to the view that AMH may lie upstream of SOX9 and play a more central role in avian testicular development. To help define the role of AMH in chicken gonad development, we suppressed AMH expression in chicken embryos using RNA interference. In males, AMH knockdown did not affect the expression of key testis pathway genes, and testis cords developed normally. However, a reduction in the size of the mesonephros and gonads was observed, a phenotype that was evident in both sexes. This growth defect occurred as a result of the reduced proliferative capacity of the cells of these tissues, and male gonads also had a significant reduction in germ cell numbers. These data suggest that although AMH does not directly contribute to testicular or ovarian differentiation, it is required in a sex-independent manner for proper cell proliferation and urogenital system growth.
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Vol. 93 • No. 6