A Vail and J Wilkinson
S. Garagna, M. Zuccotti, J. B. Searle, C. A. Redi and P. J. Wilkinson
Summary. Twenty-two adult male common shrews were collected from 5 sites in the vicinity of Oxford (UK) close to the zone of hybridization between two karyotypic races. The shrews were subdivided into 3 karyotypic categories: homozygotes, simple Robertsonian heterozygotes (which form one or more trivalents at prophase I of meiosis) and complex Robertsonian heterozygotes (which form a quadrivalent). The ratio of primary spermatocytes to round spermatids was determined from transverse sections of seminiferous tubules, to provide an indication of germ cell death. In no individual was there severe germ cells loss. Homozygotes had the highest mean spermatocyte: spermatid ratio and complex heterozygotes the lowest, but there was substantial individual variation and the differences were not significant. Complex heterozygotes also had a higher proportion of defective seminiferous tubules and lower testis weights than did other categories and it is reasonable to propose that, as a population, complex heterozygotes have reduced fitness relative to other categories on the basis of spermatogenic performance. However, there is no evidence from studies of spermatogenesis that simple Robertsonian heterozygotes are less fit than homozygotes.
Keywords: common shrew; Robertsonian rearrangements; spermatogenesis; Robertsonian heterozygotes
Jessica A McCoy, Benjamin B Parrott, Thomas R Rainwater, Phillip M Wilkinson and Louis J Guillette Jr
Despite the widespread occurrence of environmental sex determination (ESD) among vertebrates, our knowledge of the temporal dynamics by which environmental factors act on this process remains limited. In many reptiles, incubation temperature determines sex during a discrete developmental window just prior to and coincident with the differentiation of the gonads. Yet, there is substantial variation in sex ratios among different clutches of eggs incubated at identical temperatures during this period. Here, we test the hypothesis that temperatures experienced prior to the reported thermosensitive period for alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) can impact how the sex determination system responds to thermal cues later in development. Temperature shift experiments on eggs collected from the field within 24 h of oviposition were employed to decouple various maternal influences from thermal effects, and results demonstrate a previously undefined window of thermosensitivity occurring by stage 15 of embryonic development, six stages earlier than previously reported. We also examine the intrasexual expression of several male- and female-biased genes and show that while male-biased genes display no intrasexual differences, ovarian CYP19A1 (aromatase) transcript abundance differs by approximately twofold depending on thermal exposures experienced at early stages of embryonic development. These findings expand our understanding of the ESD in the alligator and provide the rationale for reevaluation of the temporal dynamics of sex determination in other crocodilians.
Benjamin B Parrott, John A Bowden, Satomi Kohno, Jessica A Cloy-McCoy, Matthew D Hale, Jacqueline T Bangma, Thomas R Rainwater, Phillip M Wilkinson, John R Kucklick and Louis J Guillette Jr
Epigenetic modifications are key mediators of the interactions between the environment and an organism's genome. DNA methylation represents the best-studied epigenetic modification to date and is known to play key roles in regulating transcriptional activity and promoting chromosome stability. Our laboratory has previously demonstrated the utility of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) as a sentinel species to investigate the persistent effects of environmental contaminant exposure on reproductive health. Here, we incorporate a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method to directly measure the total (global) proportion of 5-methyl-2′-deoxycytidine (5mdC) in ovarian and whole blood DNA from alligators. Global DNA methylation in ovaries was significantly elevated in comparison with that of whole blood. However, DNA methylation appeared similar in juvenile alligators reared under controlled laboratory conditions but originating from three sites with dissimilar environmental qualities, indicating an absence of detectable site-of-origin effects on persistent levels of global 5mdC content. Analyses of tissues across individuals revealed a surprising lack of correlation between global methylation levels in blood and ovary. In addition, global DNA methylation in blood samples from juvenile alligators was elevated compared with those from adults, suggesting that age, as observed in mammals, may negatively influence global DNA methylation levels in alligators. To our knowledge, this is the first study examining global levels of DNA methylation in the American alligator and provides a reference point for future studies examining the interplay of epigenetics and environmental factors in a long-lived sentinel species.