Expression of steroidogenic enzymes and steroid receptors in foetal gonads of domestic cat—Sex similarities and differences

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Foetal gonads already produce steroid hormones and by this influence the further development of external and internal genitalia as well as of the brain. Beside this, foetal gonads themselves can be influenced by foetal or maternal hormones. The time course of foetal gonadal development can differ between species. As knowledge on processes in domestic cats is very limited, the steroidogenic enzyme expressions as well as these of steroid receptors were analysed in foetal gonads of domestic cats. We investigated a period from beginning of the second half of pregnancy to the beginning of the third trimester; a phase, where also gonadal development proceeds. The mRNA expression of most of the steroidogenic enzymes was remarkably higher in male gonads compared to female ones on all analysed days. The enzyme mRNA expression in female gonads shows a tendency for an increase towards the beginning of the third trimester, except that of aromatase gene CYP19A1—it shows the opposite trend. CYP19A1 was detectable just in female gonads, indicating that only female foetal gonads are capable of producing oestrogens. Gene expressions of genomically and non-genomically acting steroid receptors for progesterone, androgen and oestrogen reception were observed in gonads of both genders. Slightly higher expressions of some receptors were detected in female compared to male gonads; only for the non-genomically oestrogen receptor GPER, we observed the opposite. The protein staining for progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (PGRMC1) exposed a potential function of it on steroid-producing cell and/or cells that suppose early oogenesis.

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