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C Bellido, D Gonzalez, R Aguilar, and JE Sanchez-Criado

We have previously shown that administration of antiprogestin (AP) type II RU486 to ovariectomized (OVX) rats on the morning of pro-oestrus decreases the magnitude of preovulatory gonadotrophin surge. This suggests that the effect of RU486 on LHRH-dependent gonadotrophin release may be independent of its ability to block progesterone actions. The aim of the present research was to study the possible site of RU486 action and to determine whether the gonadotrophin suppressive effect of APs RU486 and ZK299 is dependent on the oestrogen background. Intact or OVX rats in the morning of pro-oestrus were injected s.c. with 4 mg of RU486 or ZK299 (AP type I) at 0900 h on pro-oestrus. At 1830 h, serum concentration of FSH and LH and median eminence (ME) content of LHRH were determined. In the second experiment, the effect of RU486 and ZK299 on pituitary responsiveness to LHRH (100 ng, i.p.) and ME content of LHRH at 1830 h pentobarbital-blocked intact or OVX rats was evaluated. In the last study, the anterior pituitary release of FSH and LH from pro-oestrus or metoestrus donors incubated with or without LHRH (1, 10 or 100 nM) in the presence or absence of APs (20 nM) was evaluated. Both APs reduced serum FSH and LH levels at 1830 h on pro-oestrus in intact and OVX rats. The suppressive effect on gonadotrophin release brought about by AP treatment was also evidenced in PB-blocked intact and OVX rats. This suggested that the inhibitory effect of APs occurred, at least in part, at pituitary level. Furthermore, in the absence of the natural ligand, APs significantly reduced basal and LHRH-stimulated FSH and LH release from pro-oestrous but not from metoestrus pituitaries. In conclusion, these experiments have shown, both 'in vivo' and 'in vitro', that APs RU486 and ZK299 have suppressive effects at pituitary level on basal and LHRH-stimulated FSH and LH secretion, regardless of their antiprogestagenic activity, in pro-oestrus but not in metoestrus.

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José E Sánchez-Criado, Carmina Bellido, Rafaela Aguilar, and José C Garrido-Gracia

Two-week ovariectomized (OVX) rats were injected over three days with 25 μg oestradiol benzoate (EB), 3 mg tamoxifen (TX) and 0.2 ml oil and their pituitaries were harvested for incubation experiments. Pituitaries from EB-and TX-treated OVX rats exhibited GnRH self-priming when incubated with their corresponding ligand. However, incubation of pituitaries with different ligands yielded divergent results: when pituitaries from EB-treated rats were incubated with 10−7 M TX they displayed GnRH self-priming, whereas incubation of pituitaries from TX-treated rats with 10−8 M oestradiol-17β (E2) blocked GnRH self-priming. Further studies to analyse the latter finding revealed that: (a) E2 inhibited TX-induced GnRH self-priming in a dose-dependent manner while 10−8 M oestradiol-17α did not; (b) co-incubation of E2 with the pure anti-oestrogen ICI 182,780, but not with the selective oestrogen receptor modulator TX, reversed the E2 inhibitory effect; (c) the oestrogen receptor (ER)-α selective agonist propylpyrazole triol, but not the ERβ selective agonist diarylpropionitrile, mimicked the inhibitory effect of E2; (d) the analogue membrane-impermeable conjugated E2-BSA also inhibited TX-induced GnRH self-priming; and (e) a 15-min exposure of the pituitaries to E2 was sufficient to inhibit the GnRH self-priming elicited by TX. Although other explanations may exist, altogether these results suggested that E2, via an ER different from classical ER, inhibits the GnRH self-priming elicited by TX.

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JE Sanchez-Criado, C Bellido, M Tebar, A Ruiz, and D Gonzalez

Administration of 4 mg of the antisteroid RU486 over 8 consecutive days to adult male rats dissociated in vivo and in vitro gonadotrophin secretion, increasing FSH and decreasing LH secretion. In subsequent experiments we evaluated the involvement of testicular or adrenal secretory products, as well as hypothalamic LHRH, in the effects of 4 consecutive days of RU486 treatment on the secretion of gonadotrophins. The first day of RU486 injection was designated day 1, subsequent days being numbered consecutively. Groups of rats injected with oil (0.2 ml) or RU486 (4 mg) were: (i) injected s.c. from day 1 to day 4 with the antiandrogen flutamide (10 mg/kg); (ii) bilateral orchidectomized (ORCH) on day 1; and (iii) bilateral adrenalectomized (ADX) on day 1. Controls were given flutamide vehicle or were sham operated. To ascertain whether the secretion of LHRH is involved in the effects of RU486 on gonadotrophin secretion, we measured the LHRH secretion into the pituitary stalk blood vessels at 1100 h on day 5 in oil- or RU486-treated rats. Additional oil- and RU486-treated rats were injected i.p. with 100 ng LHRH at 1000 h on day 5, or s.c. with 1 mg LHRH antagonist (LHRH-ANT) at 1000 h on days 2 and 4. Controls were given saline. All animals were decapitated at 1100 h on day 5, trunk blood collected and serum stored frozen until FSH, LH and testosterone assays.%While ADX had no effect on FSH and LH secretion in either oil- or RU486-treated rats, the removal of androgen negative feedback with flutamide treatment or by ORCH substantially increased serum levels of FSH and LH in both oil- and RU486-treated rats, and thus annulled the effects of RU486. No differences in pituitary stalk plasma LHRH concentrations were found between oil- and RU486-treated rats. Injection of LHRH increased serum FSH and LH concentrations in oil-treated rats but only, and to a lesser extent, LH concentrations in RU486-treated rats. Treatment with LHRH-ANT decreased serum concentrations of FSH and LH in both oil- and RU486-treated rats. These results suggest that RU486 inhibited LHRH-stimulated LH secretion at the pituitary level, and that FSH secretion increased in response to a reduction in the negative feedback of androgen.

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F Gaytan, C Morales, C Bellido, R Aguilar, Y Millan, J Martin De Las Mulas, and JE Sanchez-Criado

Preovulatory surges of both prolactin (PRL) and progesterone have been suggested to be necessary for the induction of apoptosis in the regressing corpus luteum of the cyclic rat. The aim of these experiments was to study whether the administration of PRL and/or progesterone on the morning of pro-oestrus reproduces the regressive changes that happen in the cyclic corpus luteum (CL) during the transition from pro-oestrus to oestrus, and to analyse the temporal relationships between two characteristic features of structural luteolysis (luteal cell apoptosis and accumulation of macrophages). Cyclic rats (treated at 0900 h with an LHRH antagonist to block LH secretion) were injected at 1000 h with PRL and progesterone and killed at 0, 30, 60, 90 and 180 min after treatment. The number of apoptotic cells increased progressively from 60 min after treatment onward in hormone-treated rats, whereas the number of macrophages did not change throughout the period of time considered. Rats injected with PRL plus progesterone showed significantly greater numbers of apoptotic cells than those injected with PRL alone. The luteolytic effects of progesterone were in keeping with the presence of luteal endothelial cells showing progesterone receptor (PR) immunoreactivity in pro-oestrus. Treatment of rats during dioestrus and pro-oestrus with the specific antioestrogens LY117018 and RU58668 decreased the luteolytic effects of PRL and progesterone and the number of luteal endothelial cells immunostained for PR. These results strongly suggest that the preovulatory PRL surge and the preovulatory increase in progesterone together trigger structural regression of the corpus luteum. This seems to be dependent on oestrogen-driven cyclic changes in PRs in luteal endothelial cells.

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J E Sánchez-Criado, J Martín de las Mulas, C Bellido, R Aguilar, and J C Garrido-Gracia

The selective oestrogen receptor modulator (SERM) tamoxifen (TX) has agonist/antagonist actions on LH secretion in the rat. Whereas in the absence of oestrogens TX elicits progesterone receptor (PR)-dependent GnRH self-priming, it antagonizes oestrogen-stimulatory action on LH secretion. The aim of these experiments was to explore whether TX treatment-induced differential expression of oestrogen receptor (ER)α and ERβ in the gonadotrope may determine its agonist effect on LH secretion. In the first experiment, basal LH secretion, GnRH-stimulated LH secretion and PR-dependent GnRH self-priming were determined in incubated pituitaries from ovariectomized (OVX) rats treated with oestradiol benzoate (EB), TX or raloxifene (RX). Cycling rats in metoestrus or pro-oestrus were used as basic controls. As in pro-oestrus, pituitaries from OVX rats treated with EB exhibited GnRH-stimulated LH secretion, immunohistochemical PR expression and GnRH self-priming. While RX had no effect on these parameters, TX induced PR expression and GnRH self-priming. GnRH self-priming was absent in pituitaries incubated with the antiprogestin ZK299. In the second experiment, we evaluated the immunohistochemical expression of ERα and ERβ in gonadotropes of cycling rats and OVX rats treated with EB, TX or RX. We found that while ERα expression was similar in all six groups, ERα expression was oestrous cycle dependent. Moreover, ERα expression in gonadotropes of TX-treated rats was as high as that found in pro-oestrus, while ERα expression in the gonadotropes of RX-treated rats was lower than in metoestrous or pro-oestrous pituitaries. These results suggest that, in the absence of the cognate ligand, TX, unlike RX, may regulate LH secretion through the ERα subtype in gonadotropes.

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J E Sánchez-Criado, J Martín de las Mulas, C Bellido, V M Navarro, R Aguilar, J C Garrido-Gracia, M M Malagón, M Tena-Sempere, and A Blanco

In the rat, oestrogen is a key regulator of gonadotrophin synthesis and release through activation of oestrogen receptors (ERs). Gonadotropes express α and β isoforms of ER and both can activate transcription in response to oestrogen. These experiments were aimed at evaluating the relative contribution of ERα and ERβ on gonadotrope morphology, progesterone receptor (PR) expression and LH secretion. Ovariectomized rats were daily injected over 3 days with 25 μg oestradiol benzoate, 0.3 or 1.5 mg of the selective ERα agonist propylpyrazole triol (PPT) with or without 1.5, 3.0 or 4.5 mg of the selective ERβ agonist diarylpropionitrile (DPN), DPN alone, and 0.3 or 3 mg of tamoxifen. Controls were given 0.2 ml oil. Serum concentration and pituitary content of LH, gonadotrope PR expression, pituitary PR content, and gonadotrope morphology were analyzed by RIA, immunohistochemistry, Western blotting and light and electron microscopy, respectively. Results showed that PPT reversed all consequences of ovariectomy, DPN mimicked the effects of PPT except for its LH-releasing action and tamoxifen had ERα-like responses. When combined with PPT, DPN attenuated ERα effects without interfering with its LH-releasing activity. Oestradiol benzoate had similar effects to those of combined PPT and DPN. It is suggested that (i) the structural reorganization of the cytoplasmic organelles provided by oestrogen, and the shrinkage of the ovariectomy-induced hypertrophy of gonadotropes, which precedes the expression of PR, are evoked by ERα and modulated, in a ying–yang fashion, by ERβ; and (ii) the oestrogen-dependent exocytosis of LH, the final step in the secretory process, is dependent on ERα exclusively.

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José C Garrido-Gracia, Ana Gordon, Carmina Bellido, Rafaela Aguilar, Inmaculada Barranco, Yolanda Millán, Juana Martín de las Mulas, and José E Sánchez-Criado

The specific role of each oestrogen receptor (ER) isoform (α and β ) and site (nucleus and plasma membrane) in LH release was determined in ovariectomized (OVX) rats injected over 6 days (days 15–20 after OVX) with a saturating dose (3 mg/day) of tamoxifen (TX), a selective ER modulator with nuclear ERα agonist actions in the absence of oestrogen. This pharmacological effect of TX was demonstrated by the fact that it was blocked by the selective ERα antagonist methyl-piperidinopyrazole. Over the past 3 days of the 6-day TX treatment, rats received either 25 μg/day oestradiol benzoate (EB), 1.5 mg/day selective ERα agonist propylpyrazole triol (PPT) and the selective ERβ agonist diarylpropionitrile (DPN), or a single 3 mg injection of the antiprogestin onapristone (ZK299) administered on day 20. Blood samples were taken to determine basal and progesterone receptor (PR)-dependent LH-releasing hormone (LHRH)-stimulated LH secretion and to evaluate LHRH self-priming, the property of LHRH that increases gonadotrope responsiveness to itself. Blood LH concentration was determined by RIA and gonadotrope PR expression by immunohistochemistry. Results showed that i) EB and DPN potentiated the negative feedback of TX on basal LH release; ii) DPN reduced TX-induced PR expression; iii) EB and PPT blocked TX-elicited LHRH self-priming and iv) ZK299 reduced LHRH-stimulated LH secretion and blocked LHRH self-priming. These observations suggest that oestrogen action on LH secretion in the rat is exerted at the classic ERα pool and that this action might be modulated by both ERβ and membrane ERα through their effects on PR expression and action respectively.

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José E Sánchez-Criado, José C Garrido-Gracia, Carmina Bellido, Rafaela Aguilar, Pedro Guelmes, Pedro Abreu, Rafael Alonso, Inmaculada Barranco, Yolanda Millán, and Juana Martín de las Mulas

In the rat, administration of tamoxifen (TX) in the absence of oestrogen (E) induces LHRH self-priming, the progesterone receptor (PR)-dependent property of LHRH that increases gonadotrope responsiveness to itself. The oestrogen-dependent PR can be phosphorylated/activated by progesterone (P4) and, in the absence of the cognate ligand, by intracellular LHRH signals, particularly cAMP/protein kinase A. We have recently found that oestradiol-17β (E2), acting on a putative membrane estrogen receptor-α in the gonadotrope, inhibits this agonist action of TX. This study investigated the mechanism by which E2 inhibits TX-elicited LHRH self-priming using both incubated pituitaries from TX-treated ovariectomized (OVX) rats and anterior pituitary cells from OVX rats cultured with TX. It was found that (1) in addition to the inhibitory effect on TX-elicited LHRH self-priming, E2 blocked P4 and adenylyl cyclase activator forskolin augmentation of LHRH-stimulated LH secretion, and (2) E2 did not affect the increasing action of TX on gonadotrope PR expression or pituitary cAMP content. Furthermore, inhibition of protein phosphatases with okadaic acid suppressed E2 inhibition of TX-elicited LHRH-induced LH secretion, while stimulation of protein phosphatases with ceramide blocked TX-induced LHRH self-priming. Together, these results indicated that membrane ER-mediated E2 inhibition of the TX-stimulated LHRH self-priming pathway involves a blockade of gonadotrope PR phosphorylation/activation, but not a deficient response of PR to phosphorylases. Results also suggested that the inhibitory effect of E2on TX-induced LHRH self-priming is exerted through modulation of cellular protein phosphatase activity in the gonadotrope.

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Ana Gordon, José C Garrido-Gracia, Rafaela Aguilar, Carmina Bellido, Juan A García Velasco, Yolanda Millan, Manuel Tena-Sempere, Juana Martín de las Mulas, and José E Sánchez-Criado

Hyperstimulation of ovarian function with human FSH (hFSH) attenuates the preovulatory surge of LH. These experiments aimed at investigating the mechanism of ovarian-mediated FSH suppression of the progesterone (P4) receptor (PR)-dependent LH surge in the rat. Four-day cycling rats were injected with hFSH, oestradiol benzoate (EB) or vehicle during the dioestrous phase. On pro-oestrus, their pituitaries were studied for PR mRNA and protein expression. Additionally, pro-oestrous pituitaries were incubated in the presence of oestradiol-17β (E2), and primed with P4 and LH-releasing hormone (LHRH), with or without the antiprogestin RU486. After 1 h of incubation, pituitaries were either challenged or not challenged with LHRH. Measured basal and LHRH-stimulated LH secretions and LHRH self-priming were compared with those exhibited by incubated pituitaries on day 4 from ovariectomized (OVX) rats in metoestrus (day 2) injected with hFSH and/or EB on days 2 and 3. The results showed that: i) hFSH lowered the spontaneous LH surge without affecting basal LH and E2 levels, gonadotroph PR-A/PR-B mRNA ratio or immunohistochemical protein expression; ii) incubated pro-oestrous pituitaries from hFSH-treated rats did not respond to P4 or LHRH, and lacked E2-augmenting and LHRH self-priming effects and iii) OVX reversed the inhibitory effects of hFSH on LH secretion. It is concluded that under the influence of hFSH, the ovaries produce a non-steroidal factor which suppresses all PR-dependent events of the LH surge elicited by E2. The action of such a factor seemed to be due to a blockade of gonadotroph PR action rather than to an inhibition of PR expression.