NMDA receptor activation upstream of methyl farnesoate signaling for short day-induced male offspring production in the water flea, Daphnia pulex

Kenji Toyota, Hitoshi Miyakawa, Katsushi Yamaguchi, Shuji Shigenobu, Yukiko Ogino, Norihisa Tatarazako, Shinichi Miyagawa, Taisen Iguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The cladoceran crustacean Daphnia pulex produces female offspring by parthenogenesis under favorable conditions, but in response to various unfavorable external stimuli, it produces male offspring (environmental sex determination: ESD). We recently established an innovative system for ESD studies using D. pulex WTN6 strain, in which the sex of the offspring can be controlled simply by changes in the photoperiod: the long-day and short-day conditions can induce female and male offspring, respectively. Taking advantage of this system, we demonstrated that de novo methyl farnesoate (MF) synthesis is necessary for male offspring production. These results indicate the key role of innate MF signaling as a conductor between external environmental stimuli and the endogenous male developmental pathway. Despite these findings, the molecular mechanisms underlying up- and downstream signaling of MF have not yet been well elucidated in D. pulex. Results: To elucidate up- and downstream events of MF signaling during sex determination processes, we compared the transcriptomes of daphnids reared under the long-day (female) condition with short-day (male) and MF-treated (male) conditions. We found that genes involved in ionotropic glutamate receptors, known to mediate the vast majority of excitatory neurotransmitting processes in various organisms, were significantly activated in daphnids by the short-day condition but not by MF treatment. Administration of specific agonists and antagonists, especially for the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor, strongly increased or decreased, respectively, the proportion of male-producing mothers. Moreover, we also identified genes responsible for male production (e.g., protein kinase C pathway-related genes). Such genes were generally shared between the short-day reared and MF-treated daphnids. Conclusions: We identified several candidate genes regulating ESD which strongly suggests that these genes may be essential factors for male offspring production as an upstream regulator of MF signaling in D. pulex. This study provides new insight into the fundamental mechanisms underlying how living organisms alter their phenotypes in response to various external environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number186
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 14 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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