Blanc – Accords bilatéraux 2013 - SVSE 7 - Blanc – Accords bilatéraux 2013 - SVSE 7 - Biodiversité, évolution, écologie et agronomie

Evolution of Sex Determining genes in Fishes – PhyloSex

Evolution of sex determination in fish

Sex queen of problems in evolutionary biology

Diversity of sex determination system in fish

The genetic and cell biological mechanisms making the decision whether the undifferentiated gonad of the embryo develops either towards male or female are manifold and quite different. Sex determining (SD) mechanism range from environmental to simple or complex genetic mechanisms and have evolved obviously repeatedly and independently. In species with genetic monofactorial sex determination, master SD genes lying on sex chromosomes drive the gonadal differentiation process by switching on a developmental program that ultimately leads to testicular or ovarian differentiation. So far very few sex determining genes have been identified in fish and in animals in general. Fish are uniquely suited to study the evolution of sex determination and SD genes. Comprising about half of the about 60 000 species of vertebrates, fish show also the greatest variety of sex determination mechanism including species with either environmental or genetic sex-determination. Even those few known SD genes are apparently not conserved over a larger number of related orders, families, genera or even species. This frequent evolutionary turnover of SD genes may be explained by the large diversity of these master sex regulators due to the high turnover of fish sex chromosomes. This project has then two major objectives: (1) to screen for potential sex determining genes in many fish species; (2) to demonstrate the role of identified genes as master sex determinants in a few selected species.

To address these questions, we have developed a strategy (Rad-Sex) that makes use of next generation sequencing technology to identify genetic markers that define sex specific segments of the male or female genome. The obtained markers will be used to isolate candidates for SD genes from these regions. This approach will be carried out by screening in a first round 35 species representing major branches of the fish tree of life. Rad-Sex markers will identify sex chromosomal regions in the majority of species. From these we will then take the most promising 15 species to find candidate SD genes by screening large insert libraries with the Rad-Sex markers. Isolated clones will be sequenced and analyzed for coding sequences. Candidate genes will be evaluated by transcript profiling and finally a selection of three genes will be taken to functional characterization.

Our first results allowed us to characterize the sex determination system in many species in which we could clearly identify a simple monofactorial genetic sex determinism with a male heterogamety (XX / XY). Surprisingly for many species no gender-specific or gender-polymorphic sequence has been identified suggesting an extremely low differentiation of sex chromosomes is in these species. In two species our results suggest the coexistence of both an environmental and genetic sex determination system. Finally in two species we identified by RNA-Seq a master sex determinant. We successfully inactivated this master sex determinant using a targeted inactivation approach in males of one of these two species which then exhibit a gonadal female phenotype. This experiment bring the first functional evidence that this gene is really the master sex determinant in this species. The discovery of a master sex determinant in two new fish species is a particularly important outcome. Interestingly the fact that in these two species these genes are arising from the same signaling pathway (TGFbeta and AMH) shows that some genes (or some signaling pathways) are more effective than others to be selected at the top of the cascade of differentiation as sex determinants.

The finding of new master SD genes will be of major importance taking into account the very low number of species, in which such genes have been characterized in vertebrates. From a comparative point of view, this project will also have a great impact on what is already known about the evolution of genetic sex determination in vertebrates in general and more specifically in fishes, in which the questions about the evolutionary significance of the high diversity of master sex determining genes and the genomic mechanisms allowing these rapid turnovers are largely unanswered. This project will also have important practical outcomes for molecular sexing that will be important for a better control of sex determination in aquaculture and for ecology and ecotoxicology research in some of the species investigated in this project that are economically or environmentally very important species.

Journals with peer reviewing

1. A. Herpin, M. Schartl. 2015. Plasticity of gene regulatory networks controlling sex determination: of masters, slaves, usual suspects, newcomers and usurpators. EMBO Reports. In press.
2. D. Chalopin, et al., . 2015. Transposable elements and early evolution of sex chromosomes in fish. Chromosome Research, in revision.

Communications (conference)

1. Q. Pan, et al., 2015. Identification of the master sex determining gene in Northern pike (Esox lucius, Esociformes, Teleosts) and its evolution within Esociformes. 17th International Symposium on The Biology of Vertebrate Sex determination, Kona, Hawaii. 13-17 April 2015. Oral communication.
2. J. Anderson, et al., 2015. The PhyloSex project: towards a better understanding of sex determination diversity and sex chromosome evolution in fish. 7th International Symposium on The Biology of Vertebrate Sex determination, Kona, Hawaii. 13-17 April 2015. Poster communication.
3. Q. Pan, et al., 2015. Diversity and evolution of genetic sex determination in fish. Annual meeting of the aquaculture section of the Catalonian Society of Biology, Barcelona, Spain, 12 June 2015. Invited oral communication.
4. J. Anderson, et al., 2015. The PhyloSex project: towards a better understanding of sex determination diversity and sex chromosome evolution in fish. 15th Meeting of The European Society for Evolutionary Biology. Lausanne, Switzerland. 9-15 August 2015. Oral communication.
5. Q. Pan, et al., 2015. Characterization of the Northern pike (Esox lucius, Esociformes, Teleosts) master sex determining gene and evolution of sex determination in Esociformes. 15th Meeting of The European Society for Evolutionary Biology. Lausanne, Switzerland. 9-15 August 2015. Poster communication.

Sexual reproduction is one of the most highly conserved processes in evolution and implicates many fields of biology but also animal and plant breeding and human health and society. The genetic and cell biological mechanisms making the decision whether the undifferentiated gonad of the embryo develops either towards male or female are manifold and quite different. Sex determining (SD) mechanism range from environmental to simple or complex genetic mechanisms and have evolved obviously repeatedly and independently. In species with genetic monofactorial sex determination, master SD genes lying on sex chromosomes drive the gonadal differentiation process by switching on a developmental program that ultimately leads to testicular or ovarian differentiation. So far very few sex determining genes have been identified in fish and in animals in general. Fish are uniquely suited to study the evolution of sex determination and SD genes. Comprising about half of the about 60 000 species of vertebrates, fish show also the greatest variety of sex determination mechanism including species with either environmental or genetic sex-determination. Even those few known SD genes are apparently not conserved over a larger number of related orders, families, genera or even species. This frequent evolutionary turnover of SD genes may be explained by the large diversity of these master sex regulators due to the high turnover of fish sex chromosomes. This project has then two major objectives: (1) to screen for potential sex determining genes in many fish species; (2) to demonstrate the role of identified genes as master sex determinants in a few selected species. To address these questions, we have developed a strategy (Rad-Sex) that makes use of next generation sequencing technology to identify genetic markers that define sex specific segments of the male or female genome. The obtained markers will be used to isolate candidates for SD genes from these regions. This approach will be carried out by screening in a first round 35 species representing major branches of the fish tree of life. Rad-Sex markers will identify sex chromosomal regions in the majority of species. From these we will then take the most promising 15 species to find candidate SD genes by screening large insert libraries with the Rad-Sex markers. Isolated clones will be sequenced and analyzed for coding sequences. Candidate genes will be evaluated by transcript profiling and finally a selection of three genes will be taken to functional characterization. The finding of new master SD genes will be of major importance taking into account the very low number of species, in which such genes have been characterized in vertebrates. From a comparative point of view, this project will also have a great impact on what is already known about the evolution of genetic sex determination in vertebrates in general and more specifically in fishes, in which the questions about the evolutionary significance of the high diversity of master sex determining genes and the genomic mechanisms allowing these rapid turnovers are largely unanswered. This project will also have important practical outcomes for molecular sexing that will be important for a better control of sex determination in aquaculture and for ecology and ecotoxicology research in some of the species investigated in this project that are economically or environmentally very important species.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Yann GUIGUEN (Laboratoire INRA de Physiologie et Génomique des Poissons)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.

Partner

UO Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon
MGX BioCampus Montpellier - Montpellier GenomiX
UW Wurzburg University
INRA Laboratoire INRA de Physiologie et Génomique des Poissons

Help of the ANR 329,118 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2013 - 36 Months

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