Testicular and androgen dependence of skin gland morphology in the anurans, Xenopus laevis and Rana pipiens

Authors

  • Dr. Eric O. Thomas,

    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA 95211
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  • Dr. Paul Licht

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720
    • Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
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Abstract

In anuran amphibians, there is increasing evidence that exocrine glands dispersed throughout the general integument are secondary sex characters (SSC). Following the recent discovery of sexually dimorphic “breeding glands” in the dorsum of male Rana pipiens, we studied the effects of castration and testosterone treatment on the dorsal skin glands of male Xenopus laevis and R. pipiens to determine whether the dorsal breeding glands, or any other dorsal skin glands, are androgen dependent. The dorsal skin glands of X. laevis were unaffected by androgen status. By contrast, in R. pipiens, breeding, mucous, and seromucous glands responded to testosterone stimulation. Mucous glands were significantly (P < 0.05) larger in testosterone-treated frogs than in castrates. There was a large, but statistically insignificant, increase in the size of the dorsal breeding glands. Testosterone treatment also increased the epithelial cell height of breeding and seromucous glands (P < 0.05). In the skins of castrated and testosterone-treated frogs, there was a reciprocal relationship between the abundance of seromucous and breeding glands: in castrates, seromucous glands were abundant and breeding glands virtually absent, whereas in testosterone-treated frogs, breeding glands were abundant and seromucous glands less common. The total number of the two gland types was similar in both treatment groups. Glands that appeared to be intermediate in form between seromucous and breeding glands were observed in some frogs. These data suggest that seromucous glands may be the regressed form of breeding glands in the dorsal skin of R. pipiens and that the dorsal skin of R. pipiens is a SSC. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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