Dax-1, a member of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily of transcription factors, is known to be involved in gonadal development in mammals. To date, Dax-1 has only been isolated in reptiles, birds and mammals. The expression of Dax-1 is down-regulated in the developing testis, but persists in the ovary of mice (Swain et al., Nat. Genet. 12 (1996) 404) and chicken (Smith et al., J. Mol. Endocrinol. 24 (2000) 23). Curiously, there is no sex difference in the expression patterns of Dax-1 in the American alligator (Western et al., Gene 241 (2000) 223). To understand its role(s) in gonadal development in vertebrates, molecular cloning of Dax-1 in amphibians is required. In this study, we cloned an amphibian Dax-1 homologue of the frog Rana rugosa and examined its expression profile during gonadal development. Cloned Dax-1 cDNA encoded a protein of 287 amino acids. Unlike mammalians that possess the three and one half repeat elements representing the putative DNA binding domain in the predicted sequence of Dax-1 protein, the frog had a single poorly conserved copy of the repeat unit. By RT-PCR analysis, the Dax-1 mRNA was detected in the liver and pancreas, but not in the testis and ovary of adult frogs. However, Dax-1 expression was seen first in the embryo at stage 12 and became stronger in tadpoles until stage X. The Dax-1 was transcribed in the testis stronger than in the ovary of frogs at stage XXV (just after completion of metamorphosis). In the gonad of frogs 2 months after metamorphosis (at this stage postmeiotic cells can be seen in the seminiferous tubules), the Dax-1 was expressed only in males. In addition, the Dax-1 transcription declined gradually as ovarian development proceeded, but its expression was down-regulated and then up-regulated rapidly when female-to-male sex reversal was caused by administration of testosterone into female tadpoles. Taken together, the results suggest that the Dax-1 may be closely involved in testicular development of amphibians.
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