Survival of ovarian somatic cells during sex change in the protogynous wrasse, Halichoeres trimaculatus.
The three-spot wrasse (Halichoeres trimaculatus), which inhabits the coral reefs of Okinawa, changes sex from female to male. Sex change in this species is controlled by a social system. Oocytes disappear completely from the ovary, and male germ cells and somatic cells comprising testicular tissue arise a new during the sex change process. However, little is known of the fate and origin of the gonadal tissue-forming cells during sex change. In particular, the fate of ovarian somatic cells has not been determined, although the ovarian tissue regresses histologically. To approach this question, we analyzed apoptosis and cell proliferation in the sex-changing gonads. Unexpectedly, we found that few apoptotic somatic cells were present during sex change, suggesting that ovarian somatic cells might survive during the regression of the ovarian tissue. On the other hand, cell proliferation was detected in many granulosa cells surrounding the degenerating oocytes, a few epithelial cells covering ovigerous lamella and a few somatic cells associated with gonial germ cells at an early stage of sex change. Then, we found that proliferative ovarian somatic cells remained in the gonads late in the sex change process. Based on these results, we concluded that some functional somatic cells of the ovary are reused as testicular somatic cells during the gonadal sex change in the three-spot wrasse.