The Gene Toolkit Implicated in Functional Sex in Sparidae Hermaphrodites: Inferences From Comparative Transcriptomics

Front Genet. 2019 Jan 18;9:749. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00749. eCollection 2018.


Sex-biased gene expression is the mode through which sex dimorphism arises from a nearly identical genome, especially in organisms without genetic sex determination. Teleost fishes show great variations in the way the sex phenotype forms. Among them, Sparidae, that might be considered as a model family displays a remarkable diversity of reproductive modes. In this study, we sequenced and analyzed the sex-biased transcriptome in gonads and brain (the tissues with the most profound role in sexual development and reproduction) of two sparids with different reproductive modes: the gonochoristic common dentex, Dentex dentex, and the protandrous hermaphrodite gilthead seabream, Sparus aurata. Through comparative analysis with other protogynous and rudimentary protandrous sparid transcriptomes already available, we put forward common male and female-specific genes and pathways that are probably implicated in sex-maintenance in this fish family. Our results contribute to the understanding of the complex processes behind the establishment of the functional sex, especially in hermaphrodite species and set the groundwork for future experiments by providing a gene toolkit that can improve efforts to control phenotypic sex in finfish in the ever-increasingly important field of aquaculture.

Keywords: RNA-seq; brain; comparative transcriptomics; gonads; hermaphroditism; sex-biased gene expression.