Histology, ultrastructure, and in vitro steroidogenesis of the testes of two male phenotypes of the protogynous fish, Thalassoma duperrey (Labridae)

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 1991 Aug;83(2):193-217. doi: 10.1016/0016-6480(91)90023-y.


Species with multiple male reproductive phenotypes may serve as model systems to study the relationship between form and function in reproduction. Large and small males of the protogynous wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey differ in reproductive behavior, gonad morphology, and gonadal steroid production. Initial-phase (IP) males are small males that spawn in groups. They have large testes with high sperm production. Terminal-phase (TP) males are large, defend temporary spawning territories, and spawn individually with females. TP males are derived from either IP males or from sex-changed females. Regardless of origin, TP males have much smaller testes than do IP males, but steroid-producing Leydig cells in the gonads of TP males appear more numerous and better developed. Testes of TP males produce more testosterone (T) and especially 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) in vitro than do testes of IP males, and the production is more responsive to salmon gonadotropin. 11-KT was the major metabolite produced by incubating the gonads of TP males with 14C-labeled steroid precursors. In vitro 11-KT production was correlated with plasma levels of 11-KT in TP males and these levels were significantly higher than those of IP males. The in vitro conversion of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone to 17 alpha, 20 beta-progestogen (17 alpha, 20 beta-P) for both types of males was similar, and was highest in winter when spawning occurred every day. Basal production of 17 alpha, 20 beta-P was similar in IP and TP male testes, and was enhanced by gonadotropin. The enzyme 20 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, responsible for the conversion of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone to 17 alpha, 20 beta-P resided in the sperm. These results indicate a function of 17 alpha, 20 beta-P in male reproductive function, probably spermiation, and a relationship of Leydig cell development and high levels of 11-KT production to the terminal male phenotype, perhaps reproductive or aggressive behavior, rather than to male gametogenesis per se.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / isolation & purification
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Body Constitution
  • Cross Reactions
  • Fishes / genetics*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Organ Size
  • Phenotype
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Steroids / isolation & purification
  • Steroids / metabolism*
  • Testis / cytology*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / ultrastructure


  • Androgens
  • Steroids