Sexual maturation and reproductive zinc physiology in the female squirrelfish

E. David Thompson, Gregory D. Mayer, Patrick J. Walsh, Christer Hogstrand

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10 Scopus citations


Female squirrelfish (Holocentridae) accumulate higher concentrations of hepatic zinc than any other known organism. In the liver cells, up to 70% of zinc is bound to metallothionein (MT), which is expressed at extremely high levels. These attributes are related to reproduction in ways that have not been fully characterized. In the present study, we have demonstrated that female-specific zinc and MT accumulation and distribution are strongly correlated to the onset of sexual maturity in Holocentrus adsenscionis. Sexual maturation not only resulted in increased concentrations of zinc in the liver and plasma, but also increased levels of hepatic MT mRNA. Furthermore, mature female squirrelfish exhibited greater proportions of MT protein in the nuclear liver cell fractions. To characterize the physiology further, we have examined the influence of the female sex hormone 17 β-estradiol (E2). E2 was not sufficient to elicit an increase in hepatic zinc concentrations or MT mRNA levels. E2 administration did, however, result in increased levels of MT in the nuclear fraction as well as overall hepatic MT protein. E2 also increased concentrations of zinc in the plasma. The changes in zinc concentration in the bloodstream followed the same time course as vitellogenin (VTG) transport from the liver. However, the high ratio of molar concentrations of zinc to VTG in the bloodstream suggest that VTG may not be the primary vehicle for hepato-ovarian zinc transport in squirrelfish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3367-3376
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2002


  • Estradiol
  • Female
  • Metallothionein
  • Reproductive physiology
  • Sexual maturity
  • Squirrelfish
  • Vitellogenin
  • Zinc


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