In mammals, follistatin (FST) plays an important role in early ovarian differentiation, acting downstream of the Wnt pathway. In teleost fish, fst is implicated in folliculogenesis and oocyte maturation, and an early and specific expression during ovarian differentiation has been described in rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. By in situ hybridization, we demonstrated that during rainbow trout gonadal differentiation, fst shares a similar expression pattern with cyp19a1a, the gene encoding ovarian aromatase, a key steroidogenic enzyme needed for ovarian differentiation in fish. Expression of fst and cyp19a1a was first detected in a few scattered cells in the embryonic ovary several days before hatching. Then, after histological differentiation, fst and cyp19a1a expression was localized in clusters of cells lining the future ovarian lamellae. As FST expression is known to be induced by the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in mammals, the Wnt pathway was inhibited in vivo with the IWR-1 molecule, and we analyzed by qPCR the effects of this treatment on fst expression. We found that IWR-1 decreased fst expression in female gonads, consistent with a regulation of fst expression by the Wnt pathway in rainbow trout. Furthermore, expression of cyp19a1a was also downregulated, suggesting an implication of the Wnt pathway in ovarian differentiation.
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