The steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein is responsible for the movement of cholesterol across mitochondrial membranes and is therefore a key factor in regulating the timing and rate of steroidogenesis. In this study, we characterized the coding region of the star gene in the ranid Lithobates sylvaticus and studied star mRNA levels in steroidogenic tissues during development and under natural conditions. Our results support previous research showing that the StAR sequence is well conserved. We determined that star is expressed in both the interrenal and gonadal tissues of adults and in the tadpole gonad-mesonephros complex (GMC). The mRNA levels of star in the GMC were found to increase during tadpole development, reaching a maximum between Gosner stages (Gs) 32 and 38. We observed a significant drop in star mRNA levels at the end of prometamorphosis (Gs40-41), just before the start of the metamorphic climax. Significant differences in star levels between females and males, with males presenting higher levels than females, were detected at Gs36-38. To our knowledge, this is the first study that reports transitory star sex differences in tadpoles' developing GMC. Our results suggest an involvement of StAR in anuran late male GMC formation and development that requires further investigation.

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