A timecourse analysis of systemic and gonadal effects of temperature on sexual development of the red-eared slider turtle Trachemys scripta elegans.
Temperature dependent sex determination (TSD) is the process by which the environmental temperature experienced during embryogenesis influences the sex of an organism, as in the red-eared slider turtle Trachemys scripta elegans. In accord with current paradigms of vertebrate sex determination, temperature is believed to exert its effects on sexual development in T. scripta entirely within the middle third of development, when the gonad is forming. However, whether temperature regulates the transcriptome in T. scripta early embryos in a manner that could influence secondary sex characteristics or establish a pro-male or pro-female environment has not been investigated. In addition, apart from a handful of candidate genes, very little is known about potential similarities between the expression cascade during TSD and the genetic cascade that drives mammalian sex determination. Here, we conducted an unbiased transcriptome-wide analysis of the effects of male- and female-promoting temperatures on the turtle embryo prior to gonad formation, and on the gonad during the temperature sensitive period. We found sexually dimorphic expression reflecting differences in steroidogenic enzymes and brain development prior to gonad formation. Within the gonad, we mapped a cascade of differential expression similar to the genetic cascade established in mammals. Using a Hidden Markov Model based clustering approach, we identified groups of genes that show heterochronic shifts between M. musculus and T. scripta. We propose a model in which multiple factors influenced by temperature accumulate during early gonadogenesis, and converge on the antagonistic regulation of aromatase to canalize sex determination near the end of the temperature sensitive window of development.
Czerwinski, M; Natarajan, A; Barske, L; Looger, LL; Capel, B
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