Functional & Integrative Genomics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 327–339 | Cite as

Transcriptomics analysis revealing candidate networks and genes for the body size sexual dimorphism of Chinese tongue sole (Cynoglossus semilaevis)

  • Na Wang
  • Renkai Wang
  • Ruoqing Wang
  • Songlin Chen
Original Article


The Chinese tongue sole (Cynoglossus semilaevis) is a typical female heterogamete species that exhibits female-biased sexual size dimorphism, which has severely hindered the sustainable development of the species in aquaculture. In the present study, four important somatotropic and reproductive tissues including brain, pituitary, liver, and gonad from 15 females and 15 males were used for transcriptome analysis via RNA-seq. A mean of 37,533,991 high-quality clean reads was obtained from each library and 806, 1482, 818, and 14,695 differentially expressed genes in female and male were identified from the brain, pituitary, liver, and gonad, respectively (fold change ≥ 2 and q < 0.05). Enrichment analyses of GO terms and KEGG pathways showed that nucleic acid-binding transcription factor activity, G-protein-coupled receptor activity, MAPK signaling pathway, steroid biosynthesis, and neuroactive ligand-receptor interaction may be involved in the sexual growth differences. Furthermore, via weighted gene co-expression network analyses, two modules (yellowgreen and salmon4) were identified to be significantly positive-correlated with female-biased sexual size dimorphism. An illustrated network map drawn by these two modules enabled the identification of a series of hub genes, including nipped-B-like protein A (nipbla), transcriptional activator protein Pur-beta-like (purb), and BDNF/NT-3 growth factors receptor (ntrk2). Detailed functional investigation of these networks and hub genes will further improve our understanding of the underlying molecular mechanism of sexual size dimorphism in fish.


Chinese tongue sole (Cynoglossus semilaevisSexual size dimorphism Transcriptome Weighted gene co-expression network analysis Steroid biosynthesis 


Author contributions

NW and SLC conceived and designed the experiments. NW, RKW, and RQW performed fish tissue sampling and pseudomales identification. RKW conducted qPCR validation experiment. NW and RKW analyzed the data and wrote the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by grants from the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund CAFS (No. 2016GH03), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31130057), the AoShan Talents Cultivation Program Supported by Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (No. 2017ASTCP-OS15), and the Taishan Scholar Project of Shandong Province.

Compliance with ethical standards

The collection and handling of all animals used in this study were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. Furthermore, all experimental procedures were performed in accordance with the guidelines for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.

Competing interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

10142_2018_595_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (6.8 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 6970 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Sustainable Development of Marine Fisheries, Ministry of AgricultureYellow Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery SciencesQingdaoChina
  2. 2.Laboratory for Marine Fisheries Science and Food Production ProcessesQingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and TechnologyQingdaoChina
  3. 3.College of Fisheries and Life ScienceShanghai Ocean UniversityShanghaiChina

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