Bivalves are among the oldest classes of invertebrates, and they exhibit diverse types of sexual patterning. However, our current understanding of the mechanisms of sex determination and differentiation in bivalves remains very limited. The retinoid X receptors (RXRs), which are members of the nuclear receptor family, are involved in sex differentiation in many organisms.
In the present study, four full-length RXR-encoding cDNAs (CfRXRs) named CfRXRa, CfRXRb, CfRXRc and CfRXRd were retrieved from Zhikong scallop (Chlamys farreri). The four RXRs exhibited the conserved five-domain structure of nuclear receptor superfamily members and differed from each other only in the T-box of the C domain. The three variants, designated T (+4), T (+20) and T (+24), contained insertions of 4, 20 and 24 amino acids, respectively. The entire CfRXR gene is composed of eight exons and seven introns, and the four isoforms are generated via alternative mRNA splicing. Expression analysis showed that all four isoforms were expressed in both the testis and the ovary during the differentiation stage, whereas no expression was detected in the growth, mature or resting stages. This result suggests that CfRXRs are involved in germ cell differentiation in both sexes. The expression of the four isoforms was also detected in other tissues examined, including mantle, gill, digestive gland, and adductor muscle of sexually mature male and female Zhikong scallops, implying the multiple biological functions of CfRXRs.
Our study presents the first report of RXR isoforms in bivalves. Further investigation of the functional roles of different RXR isoforms may provide deep insights into the regulatory mechanism of sex differentiation in C. farreri.