The role of StAR2 gene in testicular differentiation and spermatogenesis in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)

Lu Li, You Wu, Chenhua Zhao, Yiyang Miao, Jing Cai, Lingyun Song, Jing Wei, Tapas Chakraborty, Limin Wu, Deshou Wang, Linyan Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Sex steroids play critical roles in sex differentiation and gonadal development in teleosts. Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), transporting cholesterol (the substrate for steroidogenesis) from the outer mitochondrial membrane to the inner membrane, is the first rate-limiting factor of steroidogenesis. Interestingly, two StAR genes (named as StAR1 and StAR2) have been isolated from non-mammalian vertebrates. To characterize the functions of the novel StAR2 gene in the gonadal differentiation and fertility, we generated a StAR2 homozygous mutant line in Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). StAR2 gene knockout in male tilapia impeded meiotic initiation, associate with the down-regulation of meiosis related gene expressions of vasa, sycp3 and dazl at 90 days after hatching (dah). Meanwhile, cyp11b2 expression and serum 11-KT production significantly declined in StAR2−/− XY fish at 90 dah. From 120–300 dah, spermatogenesis gradually recovered, and so did the expressions of vasa, sycp3 and dazl in StAR2−/− XY fish testes. However, seminiferous lobules arranged disorderly in StAR2−/− XY fish testes at 300 dah. The number of Leydig cells and expressions of downstream steroidogenesis enzymes including cyp11a1, 3β-HSD-I, 3β-HSD-II, cyp17a1 and cyp17a2 decreased in StAR2−/− XY fish testes at 300 dah. Serum testosterone and 11-KT levels were significantly lower in StAR2−/− XY fish than that of their control counterparts. Furthermore, significantly elevated ar, fsh and lh expressions in StAR2-deficient XY fish testes and pituitaries were found when compared with the control XY fish. Testes degeneration and spermatogenic cell apoptosis were observed, while no sperm were squeezed out in StAR2−/− XY fish testes at 540 dah. Taken together, our results suggest that StAR2 has a role in testicular development, spermatogenesis and spermiation by regulating androgen production in tilapia, but may not be essential and could be compensated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105974
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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