There are many previous reports on the effects of ethanol on physiological function, including reports of elevated blood estrogen levels in women who drank alcohol. However, the mechanism of ethanol's effects on ovarian functions, such as follicle development and hormone secretion, has not been fully clarified. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the impacts of ethanol on these phenomena and their mechanisms using a primary culture system of rat ovarian granulosa cells (GCs). In the present experiment, groups were created in which follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) or ethanol was added alone or FSH and ethanol were co-added, and mRNA and protein expression in each group was measured for luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) and sex steroid hormone synthase, as well as for estradiol (E2) production, cAMP production, and FSH receptor (FSHR) internalization rate. The addition of FSH induced mRNA expression of LHR and aromatase, which led to membrane LHR expression and E2 production. The coexistence of ethanol enhanced all these responses. The action of FSH is exerted via cAMP, and the co-addition of ethanol enhanced this cAMP production. Ethanol alone did not induce cAMP production. The enhancing effect of ethanol was also observed for cAMP induced by cholera toxin. Ethanol had no significant effect on the internalization rate of FSHR. In conclusion, ethanol increased FSH-stimulated cAMP production by increasing the activity of adenylyl cyclase, which enhanced FSH actions in rat GCs. Alcohol is an exacerbating factor in several female hormone-related diseases, and the mechanism of ethanol-induced increase in estrogen secretion revealed in this study may be involved in the pathogenesis of these diseases.
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