Recent reports have implicated an important role for arginine vasotocin (AVT) in the socially mediated sexual differentiation of fishes. This study focuses on the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) which exhibits two male morphs, type I and type II, differing in a suite of behavioral, neurobiological, and endocrine traits. Immunocytochemical techniques were used to detect neurons containing AVT-like peptide in the forebrain of juveniles, adult females, and type I and type II males. AVT immunoreactive (ir) somata were localized to three regions: the terminal nerve ganglion, the preoptic area (POA), and the pineal stalk. The profile area, or size, of AVT-ir POA neurons differed across the four classes of midshipman and was strongly correlated to differences in body size among the groups. By contrast, the number of AVT-ir cells in the POA exhibited no difference across the classes of midshipman. The number of POA cells containing AVT is therefore likely to be set early in development and not to change with the growth of the animal. An analysis of AVT-ir cell number normalized by body mass revealed that the larger morphs, type I males and females, have fewer cells per gram body mass than type II males and juveniles. Therefore, type II males have a juvenile-like AVT POA phenotype with smaller cells and more numerous cells per unit body mass than type I males. Type II males also exhibit more variability in the number of AVT-ir cells found in the POA compared to type I males.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.