Pubertal hormones modulate the addition of new cells to sexually dimorphic brain regions.
ABSTRACT: New cells, including neurons, arise in several brain regions during puberty in rats. Sex differences in pubertal addition of cells coincide with adult sexual dimorphisms: for each region, the sex that gains more cells during puberty has a larger volume in adulthood. Removing gonadal hormones before puberty eliminates these sex differences, indicating that gonadal steroids direct the addition of new cells during puberty to maintain and accentuate sexual dimorphisms in the adult brain.
Project description:Sexual dimorphisms in the brain underlie behavioral sex differences, but the function of individual sexually dimorphic neuronal populations is poorly understood. Neuronal sexual dimorphisms typically represent quantitative differences in cell number, gene expression, or other features, and it is unknown whether these dimorphisms control sex-typical behavior exclusively in one sex or in both sexes. The progesterone receptor (PR) controls female sexual behavior, and we find many sex differences in number, distribution, or projections of PR-expressing neurons in the adult mouse brain. Using a genetic strategy we developed, we have ablated one such dimorphic PR-expressing neuronal population located in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH). Ablation of these neurons in females greatly diminishes sexual receptivity. Strikingly, the corresponding ablation in males reduces mating and aggression. Our findings reveal the functions of a molecularly defined, sexually dimorphic neuronal population in the brain. Moreover, we show that sexually dimorphic neurons can control distinct sex-typical behaviors in both sexes.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Studies on major depressive and anxiety disorders suggest dysfunctions in brain corticolimbic circuits, including altered gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and modulatory (serotonin and dopamine) neurotransmission. Interestingly, sexual dimorphisms in GABA, serotonin, and dopamine systems are also reported. Understanding the mechanisms behind these sexual dimorphisms may help unravel the biological bases of the heightened female vulnerability to mood disorders. Here, we investigate the contribution of sex-related factors (sex chromosome complement, developmental gonadal sex, or adult circulating hormones) to frontal cortex expression of selected GABA-, serotonin-, and dopamine-related genes. METHODS: As gonadal sex is determined by sex chromosome complement, the role of sex chromosomes cannot be investigated individually in humans. Therefore, we used the Four Core Genotypes (FCG) mouse model, in which sex chromosome complement and gonadal sex are artificially decoupled, to examine the expression of 13 GABA-related genes, 6 serotonin- and dopamine-related genes, and 8 associated signal transduction genes under chronic stress conditions. Results were analyzed by three-way ANOVA (sex chromosome complement?×?gonadal sex?×?circulating testosterone). A global perspective of gene expression changes was provided by heatmap representation and gene co-expression networks to identify patterns of transcriptional activities related to each main factor. RESULTS: We show that under chronic stress conditions, sex chromosome complement influenced GABA/serotonin/dopamine-related gene expression in the frontal cortex, with XY mice consistently having lower gene expression compared to XX mice. Gonadal sex and circulating testosterone exhibited less pronounced, more complex, and variable control over gene expression. Across factors, male conditions were associated with a tightly co-expressed set of signal transduction genes. CONCLUSIONS: Under chronic stress conditions, sex-related factors differentially influence expression of genes linked to mood regulation in the frontal cortex. The main factor influencing expression of GABA-, serotonin-, and dopamine-related genes was sex chromosome complement, with an unexpected pro-disease effect in XY mice relative to XX mice. This effect was partially opposed by gonadal sex and circulating testosterone, although all three factors influenced signal transduction pathways in males. Since GABA, serotonin, and dopamine changes are also observed in other psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, these findings have broader implications for the understanding of sexual dimorphism in adult psychopathology.
Project description:Puberty marks numerous physiological processes which are initiated by central activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, followed by development of secondary sexual characteristics. To a large extent, pubertal timing is heritable, but current knowledge of genetic polymorphisms only explains few months in the large inter-individual variation in the timing of puberty. We have analysed longitudinal genome-wide changes in DNA methylation in peripheral blood samples (n?=?102) obtained from 51 healthy children before and after pubertal onset. We show that changes in single methylation sites are tightly associated with physiological pubertal transition and altered reproductive hormone levels. These methylation sites cluster in and around genes enriched for biological functions related to pubertal development. Importantly, we identified that methylation of the genomic region containing the promoter of TRIP6 was co-ordinately regulated as a function of pubertal development. In accordance, immunohistochemistry identified TRIP6 in adult, but not pre-pubertal, testicular Leydig cells and circulating TRIP6 levels doubled during puberty. Using elastic net prediction models, methylation patterns predicted pubertal development more accurately than chronological age. We demonstrate for the first time that pubertal attainment of secondary sexual characteristics is mirrored by changes in DNA methylation patterns in peripheral blood. Thus, modulations of the epigenome seem involved in regulation of the individual pubertal timing.
Project description:This article overviews advances in the genetics of puberty based on studies in the general population, describes evidence for sex-specific genetic effects on pubertal timing, and briefly reviews possible mechanisms mediating sexually dimorphic genetic effects.Pubertal timing is highly polygenic, and many loci are conserved among ethnicities. A number of identified loci underlie both pubertal timing and related traits such as height and BMI. It is increasingly apparent that understanding the factors modulating the onset of puberty is important because the timing of this developmental stage is associated with a wider range of adult health outcomes than previously appreciated. Although most of the genetic effects underlying the timing of puberty are common between boys and girls, some effects show sex-specificity and many are epigenetically modulated. Several potential mechanisms, including hormone-independent ones, may be responsible for observed sex differences.Studies of pubertal timing in the general population have provided new knowledge about the genetic architecture of this complex trait. Increasing attention paid to sex-specific effects may provide key insights into the sexual dimorphism in pubertal timing and even into the associations between puberty and adult health risks by identifying common underlying biological pathways.
Project description:Nervous systems display intriguing patterns of sexual dimorphisms across the animal kingdom, but the mechanisms that generate such dimorphisms remain poorly characterized. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a number of neurons present in both sexes are synaptically connected to one another in a sexually dimorphic manner as a result of sex-specific synaptic pruning and maintenance [1-3]. We define here a mechanism for the male-specific maintenance of the synaptic connections of the phasmid sensory neuron PHB and its male-specific target, the sex-shared AVG interneuron. We show that the C. elegans Netrin ortholog UNC-6, signaling through its cognate receptor UNC-40/DCC and the CED-5/DOCK180 guanine nucleotide exchange factor, is both required and sufficient for male-specific synaptic maintenance. The dimorphism of unc-6 activity is brought about by sex-specific regulation of unc-6 transcription. Although unc-6 is transcribed in the AVG neuron of males and hermaphrodites during juvenile stages, unc-6 expression is downregulated in AVG in hermaphrodites during sexual maturation but is maintained during sexual maturation of males. unc-6 downregulation in hermaphrodites is conferred by the master regulator of hermaphrodite sexual identity, the Gli/CI homolog TRA-1, which antagonizes the non-sex-specific function of the LIM homeobox gene lin-11, a terminal selector and activator of unc-6 in AVG. Preventing the downregulation of unc-6 in AVG of hermaphrodites through ectopic expression of unc-6 in transgenic animals results in the maintenance of the PHB>AVG synapses in hermaphrodites. Taken together, intersectional transcriptional regulation of unc-6/Netrin is required and sufficient to cell autonomously pattern sexually dimorphic synapses.
Project description:Sex determination in Drosophila is commonly thought to be a cell-autonomous process, where each cell decides its own sexual fate based on its sex chromosome constitution (XX versus XY). This is in contrast to sex determination in mammals, which largely acts nonautonomously through cell-cell signaling. Here we examine how sexual dimorphism is created in the Drosophila gonad by investigating the formation of the pigment cell precursors, a male-specific cell type in the embryonic gonad. Surprisingly, we find that sex determination in the pigment cell precursors, as well as the male-specific somatic gonadal precursors, is non-cell autonomous. Male-specific expression of Wnt2 within the somatic gonad triggers pigment cell precursor formation from surrounding cells. Our results indicate that nonautonomous sex determination is important for creating sexual dimorphism in the Drosophila gonad, similar to the manner in which sex-specific gonad formation is controlled in mammals.
Project description:Sexual dimorphisms are typically attributed to the hormonal differences arising once sex differentiation has occurred. However, in some sexually dimorphic diseases that differ in frequency but not severity, the differences cannot be logically connected to the sex hormones. Therefore, we asked whether any aspect of sexual dimorphism could be attributed to chromosomal rather than hormonal differences. Cells taken from mice at d 10.5 postconception (PC) before sexual differentiation, at d 17.5 PC after the first embryonic assertion of sexual hormones, and at postnatal day 17 (puberty) were cultured and exposed to 400 microM ethanol or 20 microM camptothecin or to infection with influenza A virus (multiplicity of infection of 5). The results showed that untreated male and female cells of the same age grew at similar rates and manifested similar morphology. However, they responded differently to the applied stressors, even before the production of fetal sex hormones. Furthermore, microarray and qPCR analyses of the whole 10.5 PC embryos also revealed differences in gene expression between male and female tissues. Likewise, the exposure of cells isolated from fetuses and adolescent mice to the stressors and/or sex hormones yielded expression patterns that reflected chromosomal sex, with ethanol feminizing male cells and masculinizing female cells. We conclude that cells differ innately according to sex irrespective of their history of exposure to sex hormones. These differences may have consequences in the course of sexually dimorphic diseases and their therapy.
Project description:At puberty, neurokinin B (NKB) and kisspeptin (Kiss1) may help to amplify GnRH secretion, but their precise roles remain ambiguous. We tested the hypothesis that NKB and Kiss1 are induced as a function of pubertal development, independently of the prevailing sex steroid milieu. We found that levels of Kiss1 mRNA in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) are increased prior to the age of puberty in GnRH/sex steroid-deficient hpg mice, yet levels of Kiss1 mRNA in wild-type mice remained constant, suggesting that sex steroids exert a negative feedback effect on Kiss1 expression early in development and across puberty. In contrast, levels of Tac2 mRNA, encoding NKB, and its receptor (NK3R; encoded by Tacr3) increased as a function of puberty in both wild-type and hpg mice, suggesting that during development Tac2 is less sensitive to sex steroid-dependent negative feedback than Kiss1. To compare the relative responsiveness of Tac2 and Kiss1 to the negative feedback effects of gonadal steroids, we examined the effect of estradiol (E(2)) on Tac2 and Kiss1 mRNA and found that Kiss1 gene expression was more sensitive than Tac2 to E(2)-induced inhibition at both juvenile and adult ages. This differential estrogen sensitivity was tested in vivo by the administration of E(2). Low levels of E(2) significantly suppressed Kiss1 expression in the ARC, whereas Tac2 suppression required higher E(2) levels, supporting differential sensitivity to E(2). Finally, to determine whether inhibition of NKB/NK3R signaling would block the onset of puberty, we administered an NK3R antagonist to prepubertal (before postnatal d 30) females and found no effect on markers of pubertal onset in either WT or hpg mice. These results indicate that the expression of Tac2 and Tacr3 in the ARC are markers of pubertal activation but that increased NKB/NK3R signaling alone is insufficient to trigger the onset of puberty in the mouse.
Project description:MiRNAs bear an increasing number of functions throughout development and in the aging adult. Here we address their role in establishing sexually dimorphic traits and sexual identity in male and female Drosophila. Our survey of miRNA populations in each sex identifies sets of miRNAs differentially expressed in male and female tissues across various stages of development. The pervasive sex-biased expression of miRNAs generally increases with the complexity and sexual dimorphism of tissues, gonads revealing the most striking biases. We find that the male-specific regulation of the X chromosome is relevant to miRNA expression on two levels. First, in the male gonad, testis-biased miRNAs tend to reside on the X chromosome. Second, in the soma, X-linked miRNAs do not systematically rely on dosage compensation. We set out to address the importance of a sex-biased expression of miRNAs in establishing sexually dimorphic traits. Our study of the conserved let-7-C miRNA cluster controlled by the sex-biased hormone ecdysone places let-7 as a primary modulator of the sex-determination hierarchy. Flies with modified let-7 levels present doublesex-related phenotypes and express sex-determination genes normally restricted to the opposite sex. In testes and ovaries, alterations of the ecdysone-induced let-7 result in aberrant gonadal somatic cell behavior and non-cell-autonomous defects in early germline differentiation. Gonadal defects as well as aberrant expression of sex-determination genes persist in aging adults under hormonal control. Together, our findings place ecdysone and let-7 as modulators of a somatic systemic signal that helps establish and sustain sexual identity in males and females and differentiation in gonads. This work establishes the foundation for a role of miRNAs in sexual dimorphism and demonstrates that similar to vertebrate hormonal control of cellular sexual identity exists in Drosophila.
Project description:All organisms are confronted with dynamic environmental changes that challenge homeostasis, which is the operational definition of stress. Stress produces adaptive behavioral and physiological responses, which, in the Metazoa, are mediated through the actions of various hormones. Based on its associated phenotypes and its expression profiles, a candidate stress hormone in Drosophila is the corazonin neuropeptide. We evaluated the potential roles of corazonin in mediating stress-related changes in target behaviors and physiologies through genetic alteration of corazonin neuronal excitability. Ablation of corazonin neurons confers resistance to metabolic, osmotic, and oxidative stress, as measured by survival. Silencing and activation of corazonin neurons lead to differential lifespan under stress, and these effects showed a strong dependence on sex. Additionally, altered corazonin neuron physiology leads to fundamental differences in locomotor activity, and these effects were also sex-dependent. The dynamics of altered locomotor behavior accompanying stress was likewise altered in flies with altered corazonin neuronal function. We report that corazonin transcript expression is altered under starvation and osmotic stress, and that triglyceride and dopamine levels are equally impacted in corazonin neuronal alterations and these phenotypes similarly show significant sexual dimorphisms. Notably, these sexual dimorphisms map to corazonin neurons. These results underscore the importance of central peptidergic processing within the context of stress and place corazonin signaling as a critical feature of neuroendocrine events that shape stress responses and may underlie the inherent sexual dimorphic differences in stress responses.