Research Summary: Impact of Daily Thermocycles on Hatching Rhythms, Larval Performance and Sex Differentiation of Zebrafish


In the wild, water temperature cycles daily: it warms up after sunrise, and cools rapidly after sunset. Surprisingly, the impact of such daily thermocycles during the early development of fish remains neglected. We investigated the influence of constant vs daily thermocycles in zebrafish, from embryo development to sexual differentiation, by applying four temperature regimens: two constant (24°C and 28°C) and two daily thermocycles: 28:24°C, TC (thermophase coinciding with daytime, and cryophase coinciding with night-time) and 24:28°C, CT (opposite to TC) in a 12:12 h light:dark cycle (LD). Embryo development was temperature-dependent but enhanced at 28°C and TC. Hatching rhythms were diurnal (around 4 h after lights on), but temperature- and cycle-sensitive, since hatching occurred sooner at 28°C (48 hours post fertilization; hpf) while it was delayed at 24°C (96 hpf). Under TC, hatching occurred at 72 hpf, while under CT hatching displayed two peaks (at 70 hpf and 94 hpf). In constant light (LL) or darkness (DD), hatching rhythms persisted with tau close to 24 h, suggesting a clock-controlled “gating” mechanism. Under 28°C or TC, larvae showed the best performance (high growth and survival, and low malformations). The sex ratio was strongly influenced by temperature, as the proportion of females was higher in CT and TC (79 and 83% respectively), contrasting with 28°C and 24°C, which led to more males (83 and 76%). Ovarian aromatase (cyp19a) expression in females was highest in TC and CT (6.5 and 4.6 fold higher than at 28°C, respectively); while anti-müllerian hormone (amh) expression in males increased in testis at 24°C (3.6 fold higher compared to TC) and particularly at 28°C (14.3 fold increase). Taken together, these findings highlight the key role of environmental cycles during early development, which shaped the daily rhythms in fish embryo and larvae, and ultimately influenced sex differentiation.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 20-December-2012

Author(s): Villamizar N., Ribas L., Piferrer F., Vera L., Sánchez-Vázquez F.


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