The platelet-derived growth factor (Pdgf) signaling system is known to play a significant role during embryonic and postnatal development of testes in mammals and birds. In contrast, genes that comprise the Pdgf system in reptiles have never been cloned or studied in any tissue, let alone developing gonads. To explore the potential role of PDGF ligands and their receptors during embryogenesis, we cloned cDNA fragments of Pdgf-A, Pdgf-B, and receptors PdgfR-α and PdgfR-β in the snapping turtle, a reptile with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD). We then compared gene expression profiles in gonads from embryos incubated at a male-producing temperature to those from embryos at a female-producing temperature, as well as between hatchling testes and ovaries. Expression of Pdgf-B mRNA in embryonic gonads was significantly higher at a male temperature than at a female temperature, but there was no difference between hatchling testes and ovaries. This developmental pattern was reversed for Pdgf-A and PdgfR-α mRNA: expression of these genes did not differ in embryos, but diverged in hatchling testes and ovaries. Levels of PdgfR-β mRNA in embryonic gonads were not affected by temperature and did not differ between testes and ovaries. However, expression of both receptors increased at least an order of magnitude from the embryonic to the post-hatching period. Finally, we characterized expression of these genes in several other embryonic tissues. The brain, heart, and liver displayed unique expression patterns that distinguished these tissues from each other and from intestine, lung, and muscle. Incubation temperature had a significant effect on expression of PdgfR-α and PdgfR-β in the heart but not other tissues. Together, these findings demonstrate that temperature has tissue specific effects on the Pdgf system and suggest that Pdgf signaling is involved in sex determination and the ensuing differentiation of testes in the snapping turtle.
- Gonad development
- Temperature-dependent sex determination