Androgen regulation of muscle fiber type in the sexually dimorphic larynx of Xenopus laevis. Academic Article uri icon


  • We used histochemical techniques [assays for adenine triphosphatase (ATPase) and succinate dehydrogenase (SDHase) activity] to identify muscle fiber types in the larynx of Xenopus laevis. Male muscle is made up of one fiber type, medium-sized fibers (approximately 9 microns2) that stain lightly for acid-stable ATPase and intensely for SDHase activity. In contrast, the female has 3 fiber types: small fibers (approximately 6 microns2) that stain intensely for ATPase and SDHase, medium-sized fibers (approximately 13 microns2) with moderate staining for ATPase and dark staining for SDHase, and large fibers (approximately 15 microns2) with little SDHase or ATPase activity. Long-term castration (6 months) has no effect on histochemical staining of adult male fibers. Long-term testosterone treatment (5 months) increases the proportion of medium-sized, moderately staining fibers in adult females, and reduces the proportion of both the small, darkly staining fibers and the large, lightly staining fibers. At metamorphosis, both males and females have 3 fiber types whose ATPase activity is similar to that of the adult female. However, no SDHase activity is observed. Treatment of juveniles for 3 weeks with testosterone results in nearly complete masculinization of muscle fibers, as judged by increased cross-sectional area, homogeneous ATPase staining, and a marked increase in SDHase activity. Thus, juvenile muscle is considerably more responsive to testosterone than is adult female muscle. We propose that the uniform metabolic properties of male laryngeal muscle contribute to the production of the rapid (66 Hz) mate call vocalizations characteristic of this species. Further, our results suggest that androgens direct the masculinization of laryngeal muscle fibers during postmetamorphic development.

publication date

  • October 1987