• gonads;
  • insulin-like growth factors;
  • IGF;
  • steroids;
  • transcription factors

Hepatocyte nuclear factor (HNF) families are composed of liver-enriched transcription factors and upstream regulators of many liver-specific genes. HNF are involved in liver-specific gene expression, metabolism, development, cell growth and many cellular functions in the body. HNF genes can be activated or influenced by several hormones and insulin-like growth factors (IGF), and different combinations of the four HNF factors form a network in controlling the expression of liver-specific or liver-enriched genes. The functions of these factors and their interactions within the gonads of bony fishes, however, are not well understood, and the related literature is scant. Recently, several members of the HNF families have been detected in teleost gonads together with their downstream genes (IGF-I and IGF-II), suggesting that these HNF could be upregulated in vitro by steroid hormones. Thus, the hormone–HNF–IGF–gonad interaction may be an alternative axis in the reproductive mechanism that acts in concert with the conventional hypothalamus–pituitary–gonad pathway. This may help the early development and maturation of the gonad or gamete, sexual maturity or reversion and spawning-regulating mechanisms among fishes to be understood.