To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying switching from asexual to sexual reproduction, namely sexual induction, we developed an assay system for sexual induction in the hermaphroditic planarian species Dugesia ryukyuensis. Ovarian development is the initial and essential step in sexual induction, and it is followed by the formation of other reproductive organs, including the testes. Here, we report a function of a planarian d-amino acid oxidase, Dr-DAO, in the control of ovarian development in planarians. Asexual worms showed significantly more widespread expression of Dr-DAO in the parenchymal space than did sexual worms. Inhibition of Dr-DAO by RNAi caused the formation of immature ovaries. In addition, we found that feeding asexual worms 5 specific d-amino acids could induce the formation of immature ovaries that are similar to those observed in Dr-DAO knockdown worms, suggesting that Dr-DAO inhibits the formation of immature ovaries by degrading these d-amino acids. Following sexual induction, Dr-DAO expression was observed in the ovaries. The knockdown of Dr-DAO during sexual induction delayed the maturation of the other reproductive organs, as well as ovary. These findings suggest that Dr-DAO acts to promote ovarian maturation and that complete sexual induction depends on the production of mature ovaries. We propose that Dr-DAO produced in somatic cells prevents the onset of sexual induction in the asexual state, and then after sexual induction, the female germ cells specifically produce Dr-DAO to induce full maturation. Therefore, Dr-DAO produced in somatic and female germline cells may play different roles in sexual induction.
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