Sex determination in the loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, is controlled by incubation temperature during a critical period of embryogenesis. As heat-shock gene expression is temperature-dependent and has been shown to be associated with early developmental regulation in several organisms, we studied the constitutive expression of hsp70 and hsp90 in embryonic brain and urinogenital tissues to see if these proteins are differentially expressed during the sex-determining period in embryos incubated at male- (26 degrees C) and female- (32 degrees C) determining temperatures. The level of expression of hsp70 and hsp90, as determined from monoclonal antibody staining, is similar in both sexes during the sex-determining period. However, AC88, a monoclonal antibody that identifies hsp90 in several systems, recognised two additional protein bands (Mr 42 and 46 × 10(3)), which are differentially expressed in the urinogenital tissue of developing male and female embryos during the sex-determining period. While the 42K and 46K proteins appear in the urinogenital tissue of developing female (32 degrees C) embryos until stage 25, they are not expressed in the male (26 degrees C) urinogenital system after stage 24. Subsequent experiments have identified both turtle proteins as heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein particles (hnRNPs). As several hnRNP proteins have specific RNA-binding sites and are involved in mRNA processing reactions, the 46K protein may mediate post-transcriptional control of specific RNA transcripts required for sexual differentiation in C. caretta.

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