Corticosteroid receptor gene expression is related to sex and social behaviour in a social fish
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Circulating corticosteroids have been related to social status in a variety of species. However, our understanding of corticosteroid receptor expression and its relationship with sociality is still in its infancy. Knowledge of variation in receptor expression is critical to understand the physiological relevance of differences in circulating corticosteroid concentrations. In this study, we examined corticosteroid receptor gene expression in relation to dominance rank, sex, and social behaviour in the highly social cichlid fish, Neolamprologus pulcher. We examined the relative gene expression of the three known teleost corticosteroid receptors: glucocorticoid receptor 1 (GR1), glucocorticoid receptor 2 (GR2), and the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in liver and brain tissue of dominant and subordinate N. pulcher males and females. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the N. pulcher gene originally described as GR2, clustered with other teleost GR1 genes, while the originally-described N. pulcher GR1 gene clustered with the GR2 genes of other teleosts. Therefore we propose a change in the original nomenclature of the N. pulcher GRs: GR1 (formerly GR2) and GR2 (formerly GR1) and adopt this new nomenclature throughout this manuscript. Liver MR transcript levels were higher in males than females, and positively related to submissive behaviour. Liver GR2 (formerly GR1) transcript levels were also higher in males than females. Collectively, the results demonstrate sex differences in corticosteroid receptor abundance, and suggest tissue- and receptor-specific roles for corticosteroid receptors in mediating aspects of social behaviour.