Nuclear Androgen Receptor Regulates Testes Organization and Oocyte Maturation in Zebrafish

Endocrinology. 2018 Feb 1;159(2):980-993. doi: 10.1210/en.2017-00617.


Androgens act through the nuclear androgen receptor (AR) to regulate gonad differentiation and development. In mice, AR is necessary for spermatogenesis, testis development, and formation of external genitalia in males and oocyte maturation in females. However, the extent to which these phenotypes are conserved in nonmammalian vertebrates is not well understood. Here, we generate zebrafish with a mutation in the ar gene (aruab105/105) and examine the role of AR in sexual determination and gonad development. We found that zebrafish AR regulates male sexual determination, because the majority of aruab105/105 mutant embryos developed ovaries and displayed female secondary sexual characteristics. The small percentage of mutants that developed testes displayed female secondary sexual characteristics, exhibited structurally disorganized testes, and were unable to release or produce normal levels of sperm, demonstrating that AR is necessary for zebrafish testis development and fertility. In females, we found that AR regulates oocyte maturation and fecundity. The aruab105/105 mutant females developed ovaries filled primarily with immature stage I oocytes and few mature stage III oocytes. Two genes whose expression is enriched in wild-type ovaries compared with testes (cyp19a1a, foxl2a) were upregulated in ar mutant testes, and two genes enriched in testes (amh, dmrt1) were upregulated in ar mutant ovaries. These findings demonstrate that AR regulates sexual determination, testis development, and oocyte maturation and suggest that AR regulates sexually dimorphic gene expression. The ar mutant we developed will be useful for modeling human endocrine function in zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Male
  • Oogenesis / genetics*
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology*
  • Sex Differentiation / genetics*
  • Spermatogenesis / genetics*
  • Testis / cytology*
  • Testis / growth & development*
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / embryology
  • Zebrafish / genetics
  • Zebrafish / growth & development


  • Receptors, Androgen