Daily rhythms of expression in reproductive genes along the brain-pituitary-gonad axis and liver of zebrafish

Juan Fernando Paredes, Mairi Cowan, José Fernando López-Olmeda, José Antonio Muñoz-Cueto, Francisco Javier Sánchez-Vázquez

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The brain-pituitary-gonadal (BPG) axis regulates the activation of the endocrine machinery that triggers reproduction, which is a typical rhythmic process. In this research we focused on investigating the daily expression rhythms of the key reproductive genes involved in the BPG axis and the liver of zebrafish. To this end, male and female zebrafish were subjected to a stimulating photoperiod with a 14 h light:10 h dark cycle. Brain, pituitary and gonads, as well as female liver samples, were taken every 4 h during a 24 h cycle. The results revealed that most genes exhibited statistically significant daily rhythms. Most of the brain reproductive genes (gnrh2, gnrh3, kiss1, kiss2 and gnrhr3) displayed a daily rhythm of expression with a nocturnal acrophase (between Zeitgeber Time [ZT] 14:34 h and ZT18:34 h, lights off at ZT = 14 h). The male kiss2 gene presented neither significant rhythms nor daily variations, while the male gnrh3 and female kiss2 genes exhibited diurnal peaks of expression at ZT06:34 h and ZT04:34 h, respectively. In contrast, the pituitary genes (fshβ lhβ gnrhr2) showed daily rhythms of expression with an acrophase during the light phase (between ZT02:10 h and ZT10:35 h). The female gnrhr3 gene exhibited neither significant rhythms nor daily variations. The male gnrhr3 gene presented a nocturnal acrophase (ZT14:32 h). The gonad genes (star, cyp17a1, 20βhsd, lhr, fshr, cyp19a1a, foxl2, amh, dmrt1 and 11βhsd) revealed statistically significant daily rhythms with nocturnal acrophases, except for female cyp17a1a (ZT06:21 h) and 20βhsd (ZT05:19 h). Lastly, the female liver genes presented daily rhythms with a maximum peak of expression around the transition phase from darkness to light (ZT01:00 h for erα and at ZT23:09 h for vtg2). These findings are consistent with the daily reproduction rhythms displayed by zebrafish, which are timed by the reproductive axis. Considering that reproductive success is critical for survival of the species, the knowledge of the rhythms of the endocrine BPG machinery provides useful information to understand the reproduction process and to establish optimal protocols and conditions for reproductive treatments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-169
Number of pages12
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Early online date19 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Gonadotropins
  • Light synchronization
  • Neuropeptides
  • Reproduction
  • Rhythms
  • Steroids
  • Vitellogenin


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