P450 aromatase is a key enzyme in steroidogenesis involved in the conversion of testosterone into 17β-estradiol. We investigated the localization and the expression of P450 aromatase in Podarcis sicula testes during the different phases of the reproductive cycle: summer stasis (July–August), early autumnal resumption (September), middle autumnal resumption (October–November), winter stasis (December–February), spring resumption (March–April) and the reproductive period (May–June). Using immunohistochemistry, we demonstrated that the P450 aromatase is always present in somatic and germ cells of P. sicula testis, particularly in spermatids and spermatozoa, except in early autumnal resumption, when P450 aromatase is evident only within Leydig cells. Using real-time PCR and semi-quantitative blot investigations, we also demonstrated that both mRNA and protein were expressed in all phases, with two peaks of expression occurring in summer and in winter stasis. These highest levels of P450 aromatase are in line with the increase of 17β-estradiol, responsible for the spermatogenesis block typical of this species. Differently, in autumnal resumption, the level of P450 aromatase dramatically decreased, along with 17β-estradiol levels, and testosterone titres increased, responsible for the subsequent renewal of spermatogenesis not followed by spermiation. In spring resumption and in the reproductive period we found intermediate P450 aromatase amounts, low levels of 17β-estradiol and the highest testosterone levels determining the resumption of spermatogenesis needed for reproduction. Our results, the first collected in a non-mammalian vertebrate, indicate a role of P450 aromatase in the control of steroidogenesis and spermatogenesis, particularly in spermiogenesis.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
L.R.: study conception and design, immunohistochemistry and immunoblot; M.A.: critical revision of manuscript; M.M.D.F.: hormonal assays, critical revision of manuscript; P.A.: drafting of manuscript; M.P.: study conception and design, immunohistochemistry, acquisition and interpretation of data.
This work was supported by Federico II Naples University.
- Received December 8, 2015.
- Accepted April 27, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd