In order to study the regulation of the growth differentiation factor-9 (gdf9) gene in a primitive teleost with semelparous life history, we cloned a cDNA encoding shortfinned eel Gdf9, expressed a partial peptide in Escherichia coli, and raised an antiserum to evaluate changes in Gdf9 expression during its pituitary homogenate-induced reproductive cycle. The effects of in vivo and in vitro exposure to the androgen 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), known to affect previtellogenic (PV) oocyte growth, were also determined. Furthermore, we investigated whether Gdf9 expression was metabolically gated by treating PV fish with recombinant GH in vivo. Immunoreactive proteins of ca. 52 and 55 kDa were identified by western blot analysis. Gdf9 message and protein were most abundant in PV oocytes, and peaked slightly earlier for mRNA than for protein. Captivity resulted in reduced gdf9 mRNA levels, which were restored following pituitary homogenate treatment. As oocytes progressed through induced oogenesis, Gdf9 expression decreased. Neither 11-KT nor GH treatment affected gdf9 mRNA levels in PV fish, although GH could partially restore handling- or captivity-induced decreases in gdf9 mRNA levels. Semelparous eels thus show an expression pattern of Gdf9 during oogenesis that is similar to that seen in other vertebrates, that appears responsive to handling or captivity stress, and whose control remains to be elucidated.
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