Sex-specific transcription and DNA methylation profiles of reproductive and epigenetic associated genes in the gonads and livers of breeding zebrafish

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2018 Aug;222:16-25. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2018.04.004. Epub 2018 Apr 12.


Reproduction is an essential process for life and is regulated by complex hormone networks and environmental factors. To date, little is known about the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to the regulation of reproduction, particularly in lower vertebrates. We used the zebrafish (Danio rerio) model to investigate the sex-specific transcription and DNA methylation profiles for genes involved in the regulation of reproduction and in epigenetic signalling in the livers and gonads. We found evidence for associations between DNA promotor methylation and transcription for esr1 (gonads and female livers), amh (gonads) and dnmt1 (livers). In the liver, esr1 was shown to be significantly over-expressed in females compared to males, and its promoter was significantly hypo-methylated in females compared to males. In the gonads, genes involved in epigenetic processes including dnmt1, dnmt3 and hdac1 were over-expressed in the ovary compared to the testis. In addition, dnmt1 and dnmt3 transcription in the testis was found to be strongly correlated with global DNA methylation. These data provide evidence of the sex-specific epigenetic regulation and transcription of genes involved in reproduction and epigenetic signalling in a commonly used vertebrate model.

Keywords: Gamete; Germ cells; Hepatic; LUMA assay; Pyrosequencing; Teleost.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1 / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Female
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Ovary / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Receptors, Peptide / genetics
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Reproduction
  • Sex Factors*
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Zebrafish / genetics*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Receptors, Peptide
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • anti-Mullerian hormone receptor
  • estrogen receptor 1, zebrafish
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1