Initiation of sex change and gonadal gene expression in black sea bass (Centropristis striata) exposed to exemestane, an aromatase inhibitor.

Academic Article


  • Many teleost fishes exhibit sequential hermaphroditism, where male or female gonads develop first and later undergo sex change. Model sex change species are characterized by social hierarchies and coloration changes, which enable experimental manipulations to better understand these processes. However, other species such as the protogynous black sea bass (Centropristis striata) do not exhibit these characteristics and instead receive research attention due to their importance in fisheries or aquaculture. Black sea bass social structure is unknown, which makes sex change sampling difficult, and few molecular resources are available. The purpose of the present study was to induce sex change using exemestane, an aromatase inhibitor, and assess gonadal gene expression using sex markers (amh, zpc2) and genes involved in steroidogenesis (cyp19a1a, cyp11b), estrogen signaling (esr1, esr2b), and apoptosis or atresia (aen, casp9, fabp11, parg, pdcd4, rif1). Overall, dietary exemestane treatment was effective, and most exposed females exhibited early histological signs of sex change and significantly higher rates of ovarian atresia relative to control females. Genes associated with atresia did not reflect this, however, as expression patterns in sex changing gonads were overall similar to those of ovaries, likely due to a whole ovary dilution effect of the RNA. Still, small but insignificant expression decreases during early sex change were detected for ovary-related genes (aen, casp9, fabp11, zpc2) and anti-apoptotic factors (parg, rif1). Exemestane treatment did not impact spermatogenesis or testicular gene expression, but testes were generally characterized by elevated steroidogenic enzyme and estrogen receptor mRNAs. Further research will be needed to understand these processes in black sea bass, using isolated ovarian follicles and multiple stages of sex change.
  • Authors

  • Breton, Timothy S
  • Kenter, Linas
  • Greenlaw, Katherine
  • Montgomery, Jacob
  • Goetz, Giles W
  • Berlinsky, David L
  • Luckenbach, J Adam
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 2019
  • Keywords

  • Androstadienes
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Aromatase
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Atresia
  • Bass
  • Black Sea bass
  • Estrogen
  • Exemestane
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Hermaphroditism
  • Male
  • Ovary
  • Protogynous
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sex Differentiation
  • Sex change
  • Testis
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 51
  • End Page

  • 61
  • Volume

  • 228