Identifying the Interaction of the Brain and the Pituitary in Social - and Reproductive - State of Tilapia by Transcriptome Analyses

Lian Hollander-Cohen, Inbar Meir, Miriam Shulman, Berta Levavi-Sivan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: As in all vertebrates, reproduction in fish is regulated by gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) control on gonadotrophic hormones (GtHs) activity. However, the neuroendocrine factors that promote GnRH and GtH activity are unknown. In Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), sexual activity and reproduction ability depend on social rank; only dominant males and females reproduce. Here, this characteristic of dominant fish allows us to compare brain and pituitary gene expression in animals that do and do not reproduce, aiming to reveal mechanisms that regulate reproduction. Methods: An extensive transcriptome analysis was performed, combining two sets of transcriptomes: a novel whole-brain and pituitary transcriptome of established dominant and subordinate males, together with a cell-specific transcriptome of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone cells. Pituitary incubation assay validated the direct effect of steroid application on chosen genes and GtH secretion. Results: In most dominant fish, as determined behaviorally, the gonadosomatic index was higher than in subordinate fish, and the leading upregulated pituitary genes were those coding for GtHs. In the brain, various neuropeptide genes, including isotocin, cholecystokinin, and MCH, were upregulated; these may be related to reproductive status through effects on behavior and feeding. In a STRING network analysis combining the two transcriptome sets, brain aromatase, highly expressed in LH cells, is the most central gene with the highest number of connections. In the pituitary incubation assay, testosterone and estradiol increased the secretion of LH and specific gene transcription. Conclusions: The close correlation between behavioral dominance and reproductive capacity in tilapia allows unraveling novel genes that may regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, highlighting aromatase as the main factor affecting the brain and pituitary in maintaining a sexually active organism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1237-1260
Number of pages24
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Aromatase
  • Dominant behavior
  • Gonadotrophs
  • Hypothalamicpituitary-gonadal axis
  • Pituitary
  • Reproduction


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