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    Aquatic animals are subject to varying degrees of starvation stress in their natural habitats due to food limitations. Consequently, starvation is a crucial environmental factor for sex determination in many species; however, limited research has been conducted on the effects of starvation on sex determination in shellfish. Here, four full sibling families of Pacific oysters were established and subjected to starvation stress. The results demonstrated that starvation caused the sex ratio (female to male) to change from 1:0.78 to 1:1.44 and resulted in a delay in gonadal development. Further studies revealed that the expression levels of DNA methylation-related genes Dnmt1 (DNA methyltransferase 1), Dnmt3a/b (DNA methyltransferase 3a/b) and Tet3 (tet methylcytosine dioxygenase 3) decreased under starvation stress. Conversely, the upregulation of Dmrt1 (doublesex and mab-3 related transcription factor 1), a gene typically associated with males, in females suggests that the increased proportion of males may be linked to starvation-induced high expression of this particular gene. In addition, the gene Dgkd (diacylglycerol kinase delta), which is involved in the regulation of second messenger protein kinase C, was differentially methylated between males and females, with the methylation level of this gene gradually increasing with male development, while the methylation level of this gene decreased under starvation stress. Correlation analysis of Dgkd methylation levels with expression levels showed a negative correlation between DNA methylation and gene expression. Finally dual fluorescence reporter experiments confirmed that DNA methylation suppressed Dgkd expression in vitro. In summary, the results suggest that starvation may regulate Dgkd gene expression through DNA methylation and thus affect Dmrt1 expression, thereby causing sex reversal in the Pacific oyster. The outcomes resolved how environmental factors are involved in sex reversal from an epigenetic perspective and provided a theoretical basis for sex control breeding in the Pacific oyster. Copyright © 2023 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


    Dongfang Sun, Hong Yu, Qi Li. Starvation-induced changes in sex ratio involve alterations in sex-related gene expression and methylation in Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part B, Biochemistry & molecular biology. 2023 Aug-Sep;267:110863

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    PMID: 37164224

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