Skip to main content

Study the seasonal steroid hormones of common carp in Caspian Sea, Iran


In this investigation, serum steroid hormones such as testosterone (T), 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P) in 12 female of the migratory population of Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) in southeast of Caspian Sea during a year from May 2011 to May 2012 were studied. The results of present study revealed that changes in levels of steroid hormones, (E2) and (T) were closely correlated to ovarian development. There was significant difference in level of 17 β- estradiol between autumn and winter seasons that the highest of 17-β estradiol level was observed in autumn season. In the case of progesterone hormone, higher levels was recorded in summer season and there was significant difference between summer and spring seasons and lower level of testosterone was observed in spring season.


Sex steroid hormones play important roles in many physiological processes, particularly in the reproduction of vertebrates. In many species of teleost, three sex steroid hormones, 17β-estradiol (E2), 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) and 17 α20 β- dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (DHP) are abundantly produced in gonadal tissues under the control of pituitary gonadotropins (GTH), and are essential for critical steps of gametogenesis (Wallace & Browder 1985; Agahama & Yamashita2008; Miura et al.1991).

A major estrogen, E2, controls pivotal physiological events in female reproductive cycles in all vertebrates studied to date. The association of changes in gonadal development with plasma levels of gonadal steroids has proven to be a valuable tool for understanding the endocrine control of reproduction in teleosts. Moreover, in teleosts, vitellogenesis and final oocyte maturation are regulated by gonadotropins via steroids secreted by the Granolosa and Theca cells of developing and mature oocytes. The occurrence of steroid production in different cells of the ovary may be related to different phases of oocyte development (Shafiei Sabet et al.2009). Cyclical changes in the reproductive hormones of teleost fishes are widely known to occur in association with reproductive cycles and have been investigated mainly to understand the mechanisms of reproductive behavior, gametogenesis, and gonadal steroidogenesis (Fostier et al.1983; Goetz1983). Seasonal changes in circulating levels of gonadal steroid hormones during the reproductive cycle are described for a variety of freshwater and marine teleost species (Fostier et al.1983; Pankhurst & Carragher1991). With the onset of oocyte maturation/ovulation the estrogen level, which is low in the postvitellogenic ovary, undergoes a further significant reduction in several species including the catfish. Fossilis and Clarias batrachus (Joy et al.1998) indicating a shift in steroidogenesis.

During vitellogenesis an increase in plasma estrogen levels, mainly estradiol that correlates with the growth of vitellogenic oocytes has been observed in many species. In the tilapia Sarotherodon aureus (now Oreochromis aureus), the initiation of spawning by increasing water temperature is followed by a rise in testosterone levels (Katz & Eckestein1974). Although it has been ascertained in cyprinids that final oocyte maturation and ovulation are induced by a preovulatory gonadotropin surge, little information on the plasma and gonadal changes in steroid hormone levels during the reproductive cycle in Cyprinus carpio is known.

The aim of this work was to investigate the seasonal cycle of the gonadal steroids testosterone (T), 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), and 17b-estradiol (E2) in the serum of wild-caught populations of Cyprinus carpio from the southern Caspian Sea.

Materials and methods

Broodstock preparation

The study was conducted between May 2011 and May 2012. 12 specimens of female Common carp were captured from southeast of Caspian Sea during year and transported to Central Laboratory of Gorgan University of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran. In each season, 3 specimens of female fish were captured. Total weight (937.08 ± 216.5 g) and total length (42.08 ± 3.5 cm) of the fishes were measured.

Measurement of serum steroid levels

The blood samples were taken from caudal vein with a nonheparinized syringe and centrifuged for 10 min. at 3000 × g, and then serum was stored at -20°C until analyzed.

Statistical analysis

Data were statistically analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) using the General Linear Models procedure coupled with Duncan’ s multiple range test in SPSS software (Ver. 16.0).


The mean values and standard deviation of the steroid hormones of Cyprinus carpio are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1 Seasonal changes in steroid hormones of Cyprinus carpio

Steroid hormones analysis during four seasons showed that there was no significant differences in level of 17β-stradiol among spring, autumn and also between autumn and winter seasons and higher level belong to autumn season. There was significant difference in level of testosterone among spring and autumn seasons. Also level lower of progesterone was observed in summer season.

Level of 17 β, estradiol hormone in spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons were 110.43 ± 80.13, 110.60 ± 48.27, 247.73 ± 134.14 and 30.13 ± 14.25 (Figure 1). There was significant difference in level of 17 β- estradiol between autumn and winter seasons that the highest of 17-β estradiol level was observed in autumn season.

Figure 1
figure 1

Stradiol hormone concentration in seasons.

In the present study level of testosterone hormone in spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons were 0.05 ± 0.005, 0.72 ± 0.02, 0.71 ± 0.18 and 0.56 ± 0.08 that higher level belong to summer season and there was significant difference in level of testosterone among spring season with summer, autumn and winter seasons (Figure 2). Also lower level of testosterone was observed in spring season.

Figure 2
figure 2

Testosterone hormone concentration in seasons.

In the case of progesterone hormone, higher levels were seen summer season and there was significant difference between summer and spring season. Levels of progesterone hormone in spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons were 0.42 ± 0.01, 0.71 ± 0.02, 0.62 ± 0.04 and 0.46 ± 0.23 (Figure 3).

Figure 3
figure 3

Progesterone hormone concentration in different seasons.


Three sex steroid hormones, 17β-estradiol (E2), 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), and 17α, 20β, dihydroxy- 4-pregnen-3-one (DHP) are well established as primary estrogen, androgen, and progestin, respectively, in teleost fish. In vitro and in vivo assays suggest that 11-KT and E2 play primary roles in previtellogenic and growth of oocytes, respectively, whereas DHP is essential for induction of final oocyte maturation (Kazeto et al.2011).

17-β estradiol (E2) is secreted by both the female gonads and inter-renal tissues. In general, estradiol is responsible for stimulating vitellogenesis and is also secreted by female gonads during the pre-spawning period. Evaluation of the results in Table 1 and Figure 1 shown that there is an increase in the level of 17 β-estradiol in autumn season. Estradiol is known to be secreted by the cells of the ovarian follicles that promote the development and maintenance of the female sexual characteristics. In humans this hormone (together with other hormones) is responsible for controlling the female sexual cycle. Estradiol has been reported to stimulate vitellogenesis in teleosts (Campbell & Idler1976; De Vlaming et al.1980; Smith & Haley1988). These authors have reported an increase in plasma estradiol levels once spawning commences, and that it remains high throughout the period of oocyte growth. These observations suggest that during this phase of undetectable estradiol levels, no vitellogenesis is required during the mouthbrooding period and that some females experience gonadal recrudescence. Another possibility to be considered is that the mid-cycle decline in estradiol levels could be due to a rapid utilization of the hormone in stimulating vitellogenesis.

Rinchard et al. (Rinchard et al.1993) Mentioned that in other teleosts such as Gudgeon (Gobio gobio), there was no decrease of E2 level during oocyte maturation; meanwhile this study has shown decreased E2 in some specimens of Cyprinus carpio.

Figure 2 shows that the highest of testosterone level was observed in summer season that this increase in testosterone in the plasma could be associated with the increase in the water temperature which occurs at the summer season. Temperature appears to be a possible cue causing testosterone to peak which leads to the gonads, and subsequently their gametes, reaching reproductive maturity.

In present results for Cyprinus carpio, showed that correspond with those for most teleosts fish and vertebrates, testosterone has been reported in the blood of a number of female teleosts. The slight increase of testosterone levels during oocyte development can be related to its role as precursor of 17-β estradiol synthesis, as a precursor of 17-β estradiol production, testosterone is available in the ovary for aromatization (Rinchard et al.1993).

Also the highest level of progesterone hormone was observed in summer season.

During the period of summer until spring, the gonads show a relatively sharp decline in progesterone levels with some mild fluctuation corresponding with the bimodal breeding cycle. Progesterone also seems to increase in concentration as a result of the increase in water temperature that is noted during summer.

Fish are in close contact with their environment and, as a result, their physiology is influenced accordingly. However, (Sakomoto et al.2001) have proposed that variations in blood parameters among fish could be affected by other variables such as the sampling technique, the capturing method, handle accuracy, the condition of captivity and the analysis techniques.


  • Agahama YN, Yamashita M: Regulation of oocyte maturation in fish. Dev Growth Differ 2008, 50: 195-219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell CM, Idler DR: Hormonal control of vitellogenesis in hypophysectomized winter flounder ( Pseudopleuronectes americanus Walbaum). J Endocrinol 1976, 28: 143-150.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Vlaming VL, Wiley HS, Delahunty G, Wallace RA: Goldfish ( Carassius auratus ) vitellogenin: Induction, isolation, properties and relationship to yolk proteins. Com Biochem Physiol 1980, 67B: 613-623.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fostier A, Jalabert B, Billard R, Breton B: The gonadal steroids. In Fish Physiology. Volume IXA. Edited by: Hoar WS, Randall DJ, Donaldson EM. New York: Academic; 1983:277-372.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goetz FW: Hormonal control of oocyte final maturation and ovulation in fishes. In Fish Physiology. Volume IXB. Edited by: Hoar WS, Randall DJ, Donaldson EM. New York: Academic; 1983:117-170.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joy KP, Senthilkumaran B, Sudhakumari CC: Periovulatory changes in hypothalamic and pituitary monoamines following GnRH analogue treatment in the catfish Heteropneustus fossilis : a study correlating changes in plasma hormone of prowler fish. J Endocrinol 1998, 156: 365-372. 10.1677/joe.0.1560365

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katz Y, Eckestein B: Changes in steroid concentrations in blood of female Tilapia aurea (teleostei, cichlidae) during initiation of spawning. J Endocrinol 1974, 95: 963-966. 10.1210/endo-95-4-963

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kazeto Y, Tosaka R, Matsubara H, Ijiri S, Adachi S: Ovarian steroidogenesis and the role of sex steroid hormones on ovarian growth and maturation of the Japanese eel. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2011, 43: 1-6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miura T, Yamauchi K, Takahashi H, Nagahama Y: Hormonal induction in all stages of spermatogenesis in vitro in the male Japanese eel ( Anguilla japonica ). Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 1991, 88: 5774-5778. 10.1073/pnas.88.13.5774

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pankhurst NW, Carragher JF: Seasonal endocrine cycles in marine teleosts. In Reproductive Physiology of Fish. Volume 91. Edited by: Scott AP, Sumpter JP, Kime DE, Rolfe MS. Sheffield: Fish Symposium; 1991:131-135.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rinchard J, Kestemont P, Kuhn ER, Foster A: Seasonal changes in plasma levels of steroid hormones in an asynchronous fish the gudgeon Gobio gobio L; (Teleosti, Cyprinidae). J Endocrinol 1993, 92: 168-178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sakomoto K, Lewbart GA, Smith TM: Blood chemistry values of juvenile Red pacu, Piaractus brachypomus . Vet Clinical Pathol 2001, 30: 50-52. 10.1111/j.1939-165X.2001.tb00257.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shafiei Sabet S, Imanpoor MR, Aminian Fatideh B, Gorgin S: Study on sexual maturity and levels of gonad steroid hormones in female kutum ( Rutilus frisii kutum ) Kamenskii, (1901) during spawning season from River Sefid-Rood of the southern Caspian Sea. J Cell Animal Biol 2009, 3: 208-215.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith CJ, Haley SR: Steroid profiles of the female tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus , and correlation with oocyte growth and mouthbrooding behavior. J Endocrinol 1988, 69: 88-98.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallace RA: A comprehensive. In Developmental Biology. Edited by: Browder LW. New York: Plenum Press; 1985:127-177.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank the aquaculture research center and Fisheries group of the Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural resources.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Vahid Taghizadeh.

Additional information

Competing interests

Vahid Taghizadeh: Reproduction & culture of fish researcher.Mohammadreza Imanpoor: Reproduction & culture of fish researcher.Nooshin Mehdinejad: Reproduction & culture of fish researcher.

Authors’ contributions

VT: I approved the manuscript. MI: I approved the manuscript. NM: I approved the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Authors’ original submitted files for images

Below are the links to the authors’ original submitted files for images.

Authors’ original file for figure 1

Authors’ original file for figure 2

Authors’ original file for figure 3

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Taghizadeh, V., Imanpoor, M.R. & Mehdinejad, N. Study the seasonal steroid hormones of common carp in Caspian Sea, Iran. SpringerPlus 2, 193 (2013).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Common carp
  • Cyprinus Carpio
  • Steroid hormones
  • Testosterone
  • 17β-estradiol
  • Progesterone
  • Seasons