Genetic sex determination leads to gonadal differentiation and ultimately the differences between the sexes in steroid hormone secretion. Gonadal steroidogenesis is critical for the development of a sexually dimorphic phenotype and adult reproductive function. Control of gonadal development and steroidogenesis is under the regulation, at least in part, of steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1). We have begun to characterize SF-1 expression in an amphibian to determine the role of this protein in development and reproduction. We have detected a putative SF-1 protein from several tissues in the American bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, that co-migrates with mouse SF-1 on a Western blot. Our results show that bullfrog SF-1 protein is expressed in steroidogenic and other reproductive tissues in a manner similar to that reported for other species, with high expression in the brain, pituitary, gonad, liver, and interrenal, but little or no expression in non-reproductive tissues such as skin and intestine. Using a quantitative Western blot analysis system, we documented changes in SF-1 protein in the gonads of developing tadpoles. Our results indicate that there is sexually dimorphic expression of SF-1 protein that becomes evident at the time of sexual differentiation of the gonads. In males, the expression of SF-1 decreases following testicular formation and in females the expression increases with the formation of ovaries. This is the first study to investigate changes in SF-1 during development at the protein level. The expression is similar to that reported for changes in SF-1 mRNA expression in chickens and alligators, however, opposite to that seen in mammals and turtles. These results indicate that SF-1 may play a pivotal role in development of the reproductive system in amphibians as it does in other vertebrate groups.
- Sexual differentiation
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