The fate of the differentiating gonads in pejerrey Odontesthes bonariensis is determined by the environmental water temperature experienced by the larvae during the critical period of sex determination. We previously reported a link between apoptosis, temperature and sex differentiation in this species. To clarify this link, we subjected larvae to thermal and endocrine treatments between hatching and the onset of histological sex differentiation of the gonads and assessed the patterns of gonadal development and apoptosis by light microscopic histology and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) analysis, respectively. Apoptotic labeling was widespread among somatic cells of the anterior region of the right gonads of fish reared at the male-producing temperature (MPT) and part of the fish at the mixed sex-producing temperature prior to sex differentiation. In contrast, TUNEL-positive cells were rarely observed in gonads at the female-producing temperature (FPT). Administration of exogenous estrogen completely prevented MPT-induced masculinization, induced feminization and reduced gonadal apoptosis, whereas an aromatase inhibitor (fadrozole) induced TUNEL signals in the gonads of FPT-reared larvae. These results provide strong evidence that apoptosis in somatic cells in the right lobe of the gonads might play a key role in testicular differentiation in pejerrey and that estrogens are involved in the regulation of this process.
© 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.