ZFIN ID: ZDB-PUB-120417-9
Polygenic sex determination system in zebrafish
Liew, W.C., Bartfai, R., Lim, Z., Sreenivasan, R., Siegfried, K.R., and Orban, L.
Date: 2012
Source: PLoS One   7(4): e34397 (Journal)
Registered Authors: Bartfai, Richard, Liew, Woei Chang, Lim, Zijie, Orban, Laszlo, Siegfried, Kellee, Sreenivasan, Rajini
Keywords: none
Microarrays: GEO:GSE34334, GEO:GSE34335, GEO:GSE34336, GEO:GSE34337, GEO:GSE34338
MeSH Terms:
  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Comparative Genomic Hybridization/methods
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Genome
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Chromosomes
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Sex Ratio
  • Zebrafish/genetics*
PubMed: 22506019 Full text @ PLoS One


Despite the popularity of zebrafish as a research model, its sex determination (SD) mechanism is still unknown. Most cytogenetic studies failed to find dimorphic sex chromosomes and no primary sex determining switch has been identified even though the assembly of zebrafish genome sequence is near to completion and a high resolution genetic map is available. Recent publications suggest that environmental factors within the natural range have minimal impact on sex ratios of zebrafish populations. The primary aim of this study is to find out more about how sex is determined in zebrafish.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Using classical breeding experiments, we found that sex ratios across families were wide ranging (4.8% to 97.3% males). On the other hand, repeated single pair crossings produced broods of very similar sex ratios, indicating that parental genotypes have a role in the sex ratio of the offspring. Variation among family sex ratios was reduced after selection for breeding pairs with predominantly male or female offspring, another indication that zebrafish sex is regulated genetically. Further examinations by a PCR-based “blind assay" and array comparative genomic hybridization both failed to find universal sex-linked differences between the male and female genomes. Together with the ability to increase the sex bias of lines by selective breeding, these data suggest that zebrafish is unlikely to utilize a chromosomal sex determination (CSD) system.


Taken together, our study suggests that zebrafish sex is genetically determined with limited, secondary influences from the environment. As we have not found any sign for CSD in the species, we propose that the zebrafish has a polygenic sex determination system.