Lau, E.S., Zhang, Z., Qin, M., Ge, W. (2016) Knockout of Zebrafish Ovarian Aromatase Gene (cyp19a1a) by TALEN and CRISPR/Cas9 Leads to All-male Offspring Due to Failed Ovarian Differentiation. Scientific Reports. 6:37357.
Sexual or gonadal differentiation is a complex event and its mechanism remains elusive in teleosts. Despite its complexity and plasticity, the process of ovarian differentiation is believed to involve gonadal aromatase (cyp19a1a) in nearly all species studied. However, most data concerning the role of aromatase have come from gene expression analysis or studies involving pharmacological approaches. There has been a lack of genetic evidence for the importance of aromatase in gonadal differentiation, especially the timing when the enzyme starts to exert its effect. This is due to the lack of appropriate loss-of-function approaches in fish models for studying gene functions. This situation has changed recently with the development of genome editing technologies, namely TALEN and CRISPR/Cas9. Using both TALEN and CRISPR/Cas9, we successfully established three mutant zebrafish lines lacking the ovarian aromatase. As expected, all mutant fish were males, supporting the view that aromatase plays a critical role in directing ovarian differentiation and development. Further analysis showed that the ovarian aromatase did not seem to affect the formation of so-called juvenile ovary and oocyte-like germ cells; however, it was essential for further differentiation of the juvenile ovary into the true ovary.