Two androgens, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, are required for the development of the male urogenital tract in the rat. Testosterone is secreted by the fetal testes and is thought to elicit differentiation of the Wolffian ducts into seminal vesicles, vas deferens, and epididymides. Testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone by steroid 5 α-reductase in the urogenital tract, and this conversion is necessary for the differentiation of the prostate and external genitalia. Genes encoding two 5 α-reductase isozymes, designated type 1 and type 2, have been identified. We examined the expression and regulation of these genes on days 17-21 in the urogenital tracts of male and female fetuses. Expression of the type 1 gene predominated in epithelial cells, whereas type 2 gene expression was limited to mesenchymal cells. Surprisingly, this expression pattern was detected in both testosterone-dependent and dihydrotestosterone-dependent anlagen of the urogenital tract and was the same in both male and female fetuses. Furthermore, transcripts encoding the two isozymes were present in their respective cell types before the overt differentiation of internal genitalia. Androgens stimulated expression of the type 2 gene in the urogenital tracts of both sexes, but did not effect expression of the type 1 gene or the cell type-specific expression patterns of the 5 α-reductase genes. In the adult prostate, 5 α-reductase gene expression is under feedforward control, in which the product of the enzyme, dihydrotestosterone, stimulates the expression of the gene. However, no evidence for feedforward regulation of either 5 α-reductase gene was detected in the fetus.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology