General and comparative endocrinology

Hormonal components of altered developmental pathways in the annual killifish, Austrofundulus limnaeus.

PMID 21906598


The annual killifish, Austrofundulus limnaeus, typically enters embryonic diapause at two distinct points of development, termed diapause II and III. This study explores the role of maternal and embryonic steroid hormones, including 17-β-estradiol (E2), androstenedione (A4) and testosterone (T), in regulating the developmental decision to enter or escape diapause II. Steroid hormone levels were measured in tissues isolated from adult female killifish during the normal lifespan of this species and in individuals of the same age that were producing either high or low proportions of escape embryos. Levels of steroid hormones were also measured during early development and in fertilized eggs that were predicted to be on either an escape or diapausing developmental trajectory. Decreases in maternal E2 levels associated with age are correlated with decreasing escape embryo production. Maternal production of escape embryos is correlated with increased ratios of E2 to T in adult ovary tissue. Interestingly, neither hormone is significantly different in fish producing embryos on different developmental pathways when examined independently. Levels of steroid hormones in fertilized eggs are not correlated with entry or escape from diapause II, though levels of A4 tend to be higher in escape embryos. Escape embryos exhibit faster hormone metabolism and earlier hormone synthesis than embryos that will enter diapause II. Incubation of embryos in exogenous E2 is associated with a 7-fold increase in escape embryo production, and significantly elevated A4 levels. These data suggest that steroid hormones may be critical factors involved in determining developmental pathways in embryos of A. limnaeus.

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