Quantitative aspects of bioconversions in the testes of the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) were studied in vitro by incubation of tissue with [3H]pregnenolone or [3H]androstenedione. During the breeding period, spawning and non-spawning animals were collected from their natural habitat, the Hula nature reserve, in northern Israel. In the same period, non-spawning animals were collected from a fish pond in the same region. It was shown that spawning was accompanied by significant changes in steroid bioconversions, i.e. a reduction in androgen synthesis, especially of 11β-hydroxyandrostenedione and 11β-hydroxytestosterone and an increase in the production of C21-steroids, especially progesterone, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and a pregnenolone ester. These changes resulted from a decreased contribution of the cytochrome P-450 enzymes 17α-hydroxylase, C17–20-lyase and 11β-hydroxylase. A rise in plasma gonadotrophin concentration was observed only in spawning catfish. In the absence of such an increase in plasma gonadotrophin, steroid synthesis in the testes of non-spawning feral and pond catfish was primarily directed towards the production of 11-oxygenated androgens and 5β-pregnane-3α,17α,20α-triol. It is suggested that spawning is induced by gonadotrophin and the ensuing change in steroidogenesis. It is possible that husbandry conditions inhibit the necessary increase in gonadotrophin release.
J. Endocr. (1987) 112, 323–332