La Trobe
600344_Todd,E_2019.pdf (2.75 MB)

Stress, novel sex genes, and epigenetic reprogramming orchestrate socially controlled sex change

Download (2.75 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-11, 05:24 authored by Erica Todd, Oscar Ortega-Recalde, Hui Liu, Melissa S Lamm, Kim M Rutherford, Hugh Cross, Michael A Black, Olga Kardailsky, Jennifer GravesJennifer Graves, Timothy A Hore, John R Godwin, Neil J Gemmell
Bluehead wrasses undergo dramatic, socially cued female-to-male sex change. We apply transcriptomic and methylome approaches in this wild coral reef fish to identify the primary trigger and subsequent molecular cascade of gonadal metamorphosis. Our data suggest that the environmental stimulus is exerted via the stress axis and that repression of the aromatase gene (encoding the enzyme converting androgens to estrogens) triggers a cascaded collapse of feminizing gene expression and identifies notable sex-specific gene neofunctionalization. Furthermore, sex change involves distinct epigenetic reprogramming and an intermediate state with altered epigenetic machinery expression akin to the early developmental cells of mammals. These findings reveal at a molecular level how a normally committed developmental process remains plastic and is reversed to completely alter organ structures.


This research was supported by a Marsden Fund grant (UOO1308 awarded to N.J.G.), the National Science Foundation (1257791 awarded to J.R.G. and 1257761 to B. Tyler at Indian River State College, Florida), and a University of Otago research grant awarded to N.J.G., E.V.T., and T.A.H. H.L. and O.O.-R. were supported by PhD scholarships from the Department of Anatomy at the University of Otago. E.V.T. was supported by a Royal Society of New Zealand Rutherford Postdoctoral Fellowship.


Publication Date



Science Advances





Article Number





American Association for the Advancement of Science



Rights Statement

Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles


    No categories selected