Starvation causes female-to-male sex reversal through lipid metabolism in the teleost fish, medaka ( Olyzias latipes)

Biol Open. 2020 Apr 7;9(4):bio050054. doi: 10.1242/bio.050054.


The teleost fish, medaka (Oryzias latipes), employs the XX/XY genetic sex determination system. We show here that the phenotypic sex of medaka is affected by changes in lipid metabolism. Medaka larvae subjected to 5 days of starvation underwent female-to-male sex reversal. Metabolomic and RT-qPCR analyses indicated that pantothenate metabolism was suppressed by starvation. Consistently, inhibiting the pantothenate metabolic pathway caused sex reversal. The final metabolite in this pathway is coenzyme A, an essential factor for lipogenesis. Inhibiting fatty acid synthesis, the first step of lipogenesis, also caused sex reversal. The expression of dmrt1, a critical gene for male development, was suppressed by starvation, and a dmrt1 (Δ13) mutant did not show sex reversal under starvation. Collectively, these results indicate that fatty acid synthesis is involved in female-to-male sex reversal through ectopic expression of male gene dmrt1 under starvation.

Keywords: Fatty acid synthesis; Metabolome; Pantothenate metabolism; Sex reversal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Male
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Oryzias / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Determination Processes / physiology*
  • Starvation*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.9zw3r22b5