Vertebrate-like sex steroid hormones have been widely detected in mollusks, and numerous experiments have shown the importance of steroids in gonad development. Nevertheless, their signaling pathways in invertebrates have not been uncovered yet. Steroid receptors are an ancient class of transcription factors with multiple roles in not only vertebrates but also invertebrates. Estrogen signaling is thought to have major roles in mollusk physiology, but the full repertoire of estrogen receptors is unknown. We presented the successful cloning of two novel forms of estrogen receptor-like genes. These receptors are present in two closely related species of Mytilus: Mytilus edulis and Mytilus galloprovincialis, commonly known and widely distributed sentinel species. Our phylogenetic analysis revealed that one of these receptors is an estrogen receptor (ER) and the other one is an estrogen-related receptor (ERR). Studies of expression analysis showed that both receptor mRNAs were localized in the oocytes and follicle cells in contact with developing oocytes in the ovary and Sertoli cells in the testis, and in the ciliated cells of the gill. In addition, we have evidence that one (ER) of these may have a capacity to autoregulate its own expression in the gonadal cells by estrogen (E2) and that this gene is responsive to estrogenic compounds.
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