Sexual differentiation and maintenance of masculinity in crustaceans has been suggested as being regulated by a single androgenic gland (AG) insulin-like peptide (IAG). However, downstream elements involved in the signaling cascade remain unknown. Hereweidentified and characterized a gene encoding an insulin-like receptor in the prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii (Mr-IR), the first such gene detected in a decapod crustacean. In mining for IRs and other insulin signaling-related genes, we constructed a comprehensive M. rosenbergii transcriptomic library from multiple sources. In parallel we sequenced the complete Mr-IR cDNA, confirmed in the wide transcriptomic library. Mr-IR expression was detected in most tissues in both males and females, including the AG and gonads. To study Mr-IR function, we performed long-term RNA interference (RNAi) silencing in young male prawns. Although having no effect on growth, Mr-IR silencing advanced the appearance of a male-specific secondary trait. The most noted effects of Mr-IR silencing were hypertrophy of the AG and the associated increased production of Mr-IAG, with an unusual abundance of immature sperm cells being seen in the distal sperm duct. Aligand blot assay using de novo recombinant Mr-IAG confirmed the existence of a ligand-receptor interaction. Whereas these results suggest a role for Mr-IR in the regulation of the AG, we did not see any sexual shift after silencing of Mr-IR, as occurred when the ligand-encoding Mr-IAG gene was silenced. This suggests that sexual differentiation in crustaceans involve more than a single Mr-IAG receptor, emphasizing the complexity of sexual differentiation and maintenance.
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