Temperature-dependent sex determination in Hd-rR medaka Oryzias latipes: gender sensitivity, thermal threshold, critical period, and DMRT1 expression profile

Sex Dev. 2007;1(2):138-46. doi: 10.1159/000100035.


The developmental time and thermal threshold for temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), gender differences in temperature sensitivity, the fertility of thermally sex reversed fish, and the effect of temperature on the expression of two major sex determination/differentiation genes (DMY/DMRT1bY and DMRT1) were examined in the Hd-rR strain of medaka, Oryzias latipes. Fertilized eggs were exposed from either shortly after fertilization (8-16 cells; embryonic stages 5-6) or from middle embryogenesis (heart development stage; stage 36) until hatching to temperatures ranging from 17 degrees C to 34 degrees C. Secondary sexual characteristics, gonadal histology, progeny testing, sex-linked body coloration and gene expression were used to determine phenotypic and genotypic sex. Sex determination was unaffected by low or high temperatures in genotypic (XY) males. In contrast, genotypic (XX) females treated from stages 5-6 showed increasing rates of sex reversal into phenotypic males at temperatures above 27 degrees C up to 100% at 34 degrees C. Thermal manipulation of sex was ineffective after stage 36, indicating that gonadal fate in medaka is determined considerably earlier than histological differentiation (stage 39). High temperature induced DMRT1 expression in genotypic females, which was observed already from stage 36. Sex-reversed males had histologically normal testes, were capable of sexual courtship and, with the exception of fish from 34 degrees C, sired viable progeny when mating with fertile females. These results clarify the pattern of TSD in medaka and provide important clues to understand the mechanism of sex determination in this species. They also suggest that a brief exposure to high temperature early in life could impair the fertility of medaka as adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Male
  • Oryzias / embryology
  • Oryzias / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Temperature*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • DMRT1 protein
  • Transcription Factors