RNA-Seq Reveals Sub-Zones in Mouse Adrenal Zona Fasciculata and the Sexually Dimorphic Responses to Thyroid Hormone

Qiongxia Lyu, Hui Wang, Yuan Kang, Xiangmeng Wu, Huifei Sophia Zheng, Karly Laprocina, Kristina Junghans, Xinxin Ding, Chen Che Jeff Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The sex-specific prevalence of adrenal diseases has been known for a long time. However, the reason for the high prevalence of these diseases in females is not completely understood. Mouse studies have shown that the adult adrenal gland is sexually dimorphic at different levels such as transcriptome, histology, and cell renewal. Here we used RNA-seq to show that in prepubertal mice, male and female adrenal glands were not only sexually dimorphic but also responded differently to the same external stimulus. We previously reported that thyroid hormone receptor β1 (TRβ1) in the adrenal gland is mainly expressed in the inner cortex and the fate of this TRβ1-expressing cell population can be changed by thyroid hormone (triiodothyronine; T3) treatment. In the present study, we found that adrenal glands in prepubertal mice were sexually dimorphic at the level of the transcriptome. Under T3 treatment, prepubertal females had 1162 genes differentially expressed between the saline and T3 groups, whereas in males of the same age, only 512 genes were T3-responsive. Immunostaining demonstrated that several top sexually dimorphic T3-responsive genes, including Cyp2f2 and Dhcr24, were specifically expressed in the adrenal inner cortex, precisely in an area partially overlapping with the X-zone. Under T3 treatment, a unique cortical layer that surrounds the adrenal X-zone expanded significantly, forming a distinct layer peculiar to females. Our findings identified novel marker genes for the inner adrenal cortex, indicating there are different sub-zones in the zona fasciculata. The results also highlight the sex-specific response to thyroid hormone in the mouse adrenal gland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbqaa126
JournalEndocrinology (United States)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • RNA-seq
  • X-zone
  • adrenal inner cortex
  • sexual dimorphism
  • thyroid hormone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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