Musk gland seasonal development and musk secretion are regulated by the testis in muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
Abstract Background The muskrat is a seasonal breeder. Males secrete musk to attract females during the breeding season. The testosterone binding to the androgen receptor (AR) in musk glands of muskrat may play an important role conducting the musk secretion process. Methods The musk gland, testis and blood samples of musk rats are collected in both breeding and non-breeding seasons. Some part of the samples are kept in liquid nitrogen for transcriptome analysis and Western blotting test. Some part of the samples are kept in 70% alcohol for histology experiment, blood samples are kept at −20 °C for the serum testosterone measurement experiment. Results This study demonstrates that the quantity of secreted musk, the volume of the musk glands, the diameter of the gland cells and AR expression are all higher during the breeding season than at other times (p < 0.01). StAR, P450scc and 3β-HSD expression in the Leydig cells of the testis were also higher during this season, as was serum testosterone. AR was also observed in the gland cells of two other musk-secreting animals, the musk deer and small Indian civet, in their musk glands. These results suggest that the testes and musk glands co-develop seasonally. Conclusion The musk glands’ seasonal development and musk secretion are regulated by the testes, and testosterone plays an important role in the seasonal development of musk glands.