Targeted Disruption of Aromatase Reveals Dual Functions ofcyp19a1aDuring Sex Differentiation in Zebrafish

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Aromatase (encoded by the cyp19a1a and cyp19a1b genes) plays a central role in sex differentiation in fish, but its precise roles during sex differentiation are still largely unknown. Here, we systematically generated cyp19a1a and cyp19a1b mutant lines as well as a cyp19a1a;cyp19a1b double mutant line in zebrafish using transcription activatorlike effector nucleases. Our results showed that cyp19a1a mutants and cyp19a1a;cyp19a1b double mutants, but not cyp19a1b mutants, had impaired sex differentiation, and all cyp19a1a mutants and cyp19a1a;cyp19a1b double mutants were males. During sex differentiation, the ovary-like gonads were not observed and the male sex differentiation program was delayed in the cyp19a1a-null fish, and these phenotypes could be partially rescued by 17β-estradiol treatment. Gene expression analysis indicated that male and female sex differentiation-related genes were significantly decreased in the cyp19a1a mutant. Collectively, our results revealed dual functions of the cyp19a1a gene during sex differentiation: cyp19a1a is not only indispensable for female sex differentiation but also required for male sex differentiation.

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