The X and Y chromosomes of channel catfish have the same gene contents. Here, we report allelic hypermethylation of the X chromosome within the sex determination region (SDR). Accordingly, the X-borne hydin-1 gene was silenced, whereas the Y-borne hydin-1 gene was expressed, making monoallelic expression of hydin-1 responsible for sex determination, much like genomic imprinting. Treatment with a methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-dC, erased the epigenetic marks within the SDR and caused sex reversal of genetic females into phenotypic males. After the treatment, hydin-1 and six other genes related to cell cycle control and proliferative growth were up-regulated, while three genes related to female sex differentiation were down-regulated in genetic females, providing additional support for epigenetic sex determination in catfish. This mechanism of sex determination provides insights into the plasticity of genetic sex determination in lower vertebrates and its connection with temperature sex determination where DNA methylation is broadly involved.
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