Many genes are known to be involved in gonadal differentiation in vertebrates. Dmrt1, a gene that encodes a transcription factor with a DM-domain, is considered to be one of the essential genes controlling testicular differentiation in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. However, it still remains unknown which testicular cells of animals other than mice and chicks express Dmrt1 protein. For an explanation of its role(s) in testicular differentiation in vertebrates, the expression of the Dmrt1 protein needs to be studied. For this purpose, we conducted an immunohistochemical study of this protein in an amphibian by using an antibody specific for Dmrt1. No positive signal was found in the indifferent gonad of tadpoles of Rana rugosa at early stages. However, in the testis of tadpoles at later stages (XV-XXV) and in frogs one month after metamorphosis, this protein was expressed in interstitial cells and Sertoli cells. In the testis of adult frogs, germ cells also expressed Dmrt1 protein. RT-PCR analysis revealed that the gene for this protein was not transcribed at any time during ovarian development, but was expressed in the female to male sex-reversed gonad. This was true when immunohistological studies were performed. In addition, Southern blot analysis showed Dmrt1 to be an autosomal gene. Taken together, our findings indicate that Dmrt1 protein is expressed by interstitial cells, Seroli cells and germ cells in the testis of R. rugosa. Dmrt1 may thus be very involved in the testicular differentiation of amphibians.
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