High Temperature Induces cyp26b1 mRNA Expression and Delays Meiotic Initiation of Germ Cells by Increasing Cortisol Levels During Gonadal Sex Differentiation in Japanese Flounder

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 Mar 9;419(2):287-92. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.02.012. Epub 2012 Feb 11.


The Japanese flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus) is a teleost fish with an XX/XY sex determination system. XX flounder can be induced to develop into phenotypic females or males, by rearing them at 18°C or 27°C, respectively, during the sex differentiation period. Therefore, the flounder provides an excellent model to study the molecular mechanisms underlying temperature-dependent sex determination. We previously showed that cortisol, the major glucocorticoid produced by the interrenal cells in teleosts, causes female-to-male sex reversal by directly suppressing mRNA expression of ovary-type aromatase (cyp19a1), a steroidogenic enzyme responsible for the conversion of androgens to estrogens in the gonads. Furthermore, an inhibitor of cortisol synthesis prevented masculinization of XX flounder at 27°C, suggesting that masculinization by high temperature is due to the suppression of cyp19a1 mRNA expression by elevated cortisol levels during gonadal sex differentiation in the flounder. In the present study, we found that exposure to high temperature during gonadal sex differentiation upregulates the mRNA expression of retinoid-degrading enzyme (cyp26b1) concomitantly with masculinization of XX gonads and delays meiotic initiation of germ cells. We also found that cortisol induces cyp26b1 mRNA expression and suppresses specific meiotic marker synaptonemal complex protein 3 (sycp3) mRNA expression in gonads during the sexual differentiation. In conclusion, these results suggest that exposure to high temperature induces cyp26b1 mRNA expression and delays meiotic initiation of germ cells by elevating cortisol levels during gonadal sex differentiation in Japanese flounder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / biosynthesis*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / classification
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Female
  • Flounder / genetics
  • Flounder / growth & development*
  • Flounder / metabolism
  • Germ Cells / drug effects
  • Germ Cells / enzymology
  • Germ Cells / growth & development*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Retinoic Acid 4-Hydroxylase
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Differentiation*
  • Synaptonemal Complex / enzymology


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Retinoic Acid 4-Hydroxylase
  • Hydrocortisone