One of the best described effects of environmental xenoestrogens in fish is the generation of intersex gonads in males. Considering 5S rRNA a marker of the presence of oocytes, a 5S/18S rRNA index was calculated in 296 thicklip grey mullets (Chelon labrosus) from polluted environments. In addition, qPCR analysis of transcription factors gtf3a and ubtf1, related respectively to 5S and 18S rRNA synthesis, was conducted along female-oogenesis. 5S/18S rRNA index identified sex with a threshold value of 0.4521 separating males from females. Histological analysis identified 38 intersex individuals. Intersex severity and 5S/18S rRNA indexes were correlated. 5S/18S rRNA index identified ovarian developmental stage with high 5S rRNA levels during early oogenesis and 18S rRNA relative values increasing towards maturation. gtf3a and ubtf1 transcription levels followed the pattern of 5S rRNA accumulation. Thus, ribogenesis genes provide easy/quantitative methods to molecularly identify the sex, female gametogenic stage and intersex severity in mullets.
Keywords: 5S rRNA; 5S/18S rRNA index; Intersex severity; Oocytes; Oogenesis; Xenoestrogenicity.
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