In the rat, the cytotoxic drug ethylene dimethane sulfonate (EDS) selectively eliminates mature Leydig cells (LCs) from testicular interstitium, activating a complex process of proliferation and differentiation of pre-existing LC precursors. We observed previously that after EDS treatment, the early LC precursors persistently express a truncated 1.8 kb form of LH receptor (LHR) mRNA. This prompted us to study whether experimental cryptorchidism, known to alter the process of LC repopulation, can influence the pattern of testicular LHR mRNA expression after EDS administration. EDS treatment completely eliminated mature LCs both in control and unilaterally cryptorchid (UC) rats. This response was followed by gradual reappearance of newly formed, functionally active LCs, as evidenced by the recovery in testicular LHR content and plasma testosterone levels in both experimental groups. Noteworthy, the rate of LC repopulation was higher in the abdominal testes of UC rats, in keeping with previous findings. Interestingly, the 1.8 kb LHR transcript was persistently expressed in scrotal testes at all time-points, but undetectable upon Northern hybridization in abdominal testes at early stages after EDS administration, when low levels of expression of truncated LHR transcripts could only be detected by semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis. In addition, the faster LC repopulation in cryptorchid testes was associated with precocious recovery of the complete array of LHR mRNA transcripts, including the 1.8 kb species. These changes appeared acutely and irreversibly, as unilateral positioning of scrotal testes into the abdomen resulted in a rapid loss of expression of the 1.8 kb LHR transcript, whereas scrotal relocation of the UC testes failed to alter the pattern of LHR gene expression. In conclusion, experimental cryptorchidism changes the pattern of LHR mRNA expression in rat testis after selective LC destruction by EDS. This change, i.e. repression of the 1.8 kb LHR transcript after EDS administration, is acute and irreversible, and likely related to the impairment of testicular microenvironment following cryptorchidism. However, even though at low levels, the expression of truncated forms of LHR mRNA appears to be a universal feature of proliferating LC precursors. The UC testis may represent a good model for analysis of the regulatory signals involved in the control of LHR gene expression.
M Tena-Sempere, J Kero, A Rannikko and I Huhtaniemi
LC Gonzalez, L Pinilla, M Tena-Sempere and E Aguilar
Excitatory amino acids, such as glutamate, constitute a major transmitter system in the control of hypothalamic-pituitary secretion. Different subtypes of glutamate receptors, such as NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartic acid) and KA (kainate) receptors, are involved in the control of anterior pituitary secretion. Other receptor subtypes, such as AMPA (activated by alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid) and metabotropic receptors, have been identified, although their role in the control of neuroendocrine function remains largely unknown. Recent reports have demonstrated the involvement of AMPA receptors in the control of the steroid-induced luteinizing hormone (LH) surge in female and growth hormone (GH) secretion in male rats. The aim of this study was to assess the potential role of AMPA receptors in the control of GH, prolactin (PRL), LH and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) secretion in prepubertal 23-day-old rats. To this end, prepubertal female rats were injected with AMPA (2.5 or 5 mg/kg i.p.) or the antagonist of AMPA receptors 1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-6-nitro-2, 3-dioxo-benzo (f) quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide (NBQX; 0.25 or 0.50 mg/kg i.p.). Serum LH and FSH concentrations and hypothalamic LH-releasing hormone (LHRH) content remained unchanged after AMPA or NBQX administration. In contrast, serum PRL levels significantly decreased 15, 30 and 60 min after i.p. administration of AMPA and increased 120 min after NBQX treatment, whereas serum GH levels increased after AMPA treatment and decreased after NBQX administration. Considering that AMPA has been shown to activate a subset of kainate receptors, its effects were compared with those elicited by 2.5 mg/kg KA in prepubertal female rats. At this age, however, KA was unable to reproduce the effects of AMPA on PRL and GH secretion, thus suggesting that the actions observed after AMPA administration were carried out specifically through AMPA receptors. In addition, as the effects of AMPA on LH secretion in adult females have been proved to be steroid-dependent, the effects of AMPA (2.5 mg/kg) and NBQX (0.5 mg/kg) were tested in prepubertal animals with different gonadal backgrounds, i.e. intact males, and intact and ovariectomized (OVX) females. The effects of AMPA in prepubertal females appeared to be modulated by ovarian secretion, as the inhibition of PRL secretion disappeared and LH secretion was partially suppressed by AMPA in OVX animals whereas the stimulatory effect on GH release was enhanced by ovariectomy. Furthermore, in male rats, AMPA administration significantly decreased PRL secretion and increased serum GH levels, the amplitude of the GH response being higher than in prepubertal females. To ascertain the pituitary component for the reported actions of AMPA, hemi-pituitaries of male rats were incubated in the presence of AMPA (10(-8)-10(-6) M). The results obtained showed no effect of AMPA on PRL, GH and gonadotropin secretion in vitro. Finally, we investigated the involvement of the dopaminergic (DA) system in the inhibitory action of AMPA on PRL secretion. Pre-treatment of prepubertal female rats with a dopamine receptor antagonist (domperidone: 1 mg/kg) resulted in the blockage of AMPA-mediated inhibition of PRL secretion, thus suggesting that this action is probably mediated by an increase in DA activity. In conclusion, we provide evidence for the physiological role of AMPA receptors in the control of PRL and GH secretion in prepubertal rats. In contrast, our data cast doubts on the involvement of AMPA receptors in the regulation of gonadotropin secretion at this age. The effects of AMPA reported herein were not mediated through activation of kainate receptors and were probably exerted at the hypothalamic or suprahypothalamic levels. In addition, we show that ovarian secretion actively modulates the effects of AMPA receptor activation on anterior pituitary secretion in prepubertal female rats.
LC Gonzalez, L Pinilla, M Tena-Sempere and E Aguilar
The secretion of PRL is controlled by different hypothalamic signals. Depending on the experimental model, PRL secretion increases or decreases after activation of N-methyl-d -aspartic acid and kainate receptors. Recently we have described that activation of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptors inhibits PRL secretion in prepubertal male rats. The aim of present study was to examine (1) the physiological relevance of this finding, (2) the possible age-related changes observed after activation or blockade of AMPA receptors, (3) the specificity of the AMPA effect, (4) the hypothalamic and/or pituitary localization of AMPA action, and (5) the mechanism(s) of action of AMPA agonists. In a first set of experiments, neonatal males (5 and 10 days old) and prepubertal (23 days old) male rats were injected with AMPA (1, 2.5 or 5 mg/kg) or the antagonist of AMPA receptors 1,2,3, 4-tetrahydro-6-nitro-2,3-dioxo-! benzo (f) quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide (NBQX; 0.25 or 0.50 mg/kg). Serum PRL concentrations decreased significantly 15 and 30 min after i.p. administration of AMPA in prepubertal male rats, while the inhibitory effect of AMPA was not observed in 5- and 10-day-old males. The effect of AMPA was abolished by NBQX but not by MK-801 (a selective antagonist of NMDA receptors). NBQX alone (0.25 or 0.50 mg/kg) had no effect on PRL release. In vitro, AMPA slightly stimulated PRL secretion by hemipituitaries from prepubertal males, suggesting that the hypothalamus is likely the site of action for the reported inhibitory action of AMPA on PRL release. In this sense, the blockade of AMPA effects in animals pretreated with domperidone (a dopaminergic antagonist) or alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine (an inhibitor of dopamine synthesis) suggests that an increase in the release of hypothalamic dopamine is probably the mechanism i! nvolved in the effect of AMPA. In a second set of experiments, the effects of AMPA (2.5 mg/kg i.p.) and NBQX (0.5 mg/kg i.p. and 20 or 40 nmol i.c.v.) were tested in freely moving adult male rats sampled during periods of 2, 3 or 6 h. In contrast with data obtained in prepubertal rats, neither AMPA nor NBQX affected PRL secretion. In conclusion, these data indicate that activation of AMPA receptors inhibits PRL secretion in prepubertal male rats. This effect probably involves the release of dopamine from the hypothalamus and disappears in adulthood.
M Tena-Sempere, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, FF Casanueva, C Dieguez and E Aguilar
Leptin, the adipocyte-produced hormone that plays a key role in body weight homeostasis, has recently been found to be involved in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Moreover, reciprocal interactions between leptin and glucocorticoids have been described. In the present communication, two different strategies were undertaken to explore the mode of action of leptin in the direct control of rat adrenal function. First, a synthetic peptide approach demonstrated that the inhibitory effect of leptin on basal and ACTH-stimulated corticosterone secretion in vitro is, at least partially, mapped to a domain of the native protein between amino acids 116 and 130, i.e. an area of the molecule also relevant in terms of regulation of food intake and endocrine control. Secondly, semi-quantitative RT-PCR analysis indicated a complex pattern of adrenal leptin receptor (Ob-R) mRNA expression, with predominant expression of the Ob-Ra and Ob-Rb isoforms, as well as moderate levels of the Ob-Rc and Ob-Rf variants, whereas negligible signals for the Ob-Re isoform were detected. Interestingly, such an expression pattern appeared hormonally regulated as exposure to human recombinant leptin (10(-7 )M) or ACTH (10(-7 )M) significantly decreased Ob-R isoform mRNA expression. Indeed, dose-dependent ligand-induced Ob-Ra and Ob-Rb mRNA down-regulation was further confirmed by adrenal stimulation with increasing concentrations (10(-9)-10(-5 )M) of the active leptin fragment, leptin 116-130 amide. Overall, our results provide evidence for a novel regulatory step at the level of Ob-R mRNA expression in the interplay between ACTH and leptin for the tuning of rat adrenal corticosterone secretion. Furthermore, our data showing down-regulation of Ob-R mRNA expression by its cognate ligand may well be relevant to leptin physiology and its alteration in various disease states.
M Tena-Sempere, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, C Dieguez, FF Casanueva and E Aguilar
Leptin, the product of the ob gene, has emerged recently as a pivotal signal in the regulation of fertility. Although the actions of leptin in the control of reproductive function are thought to be exerted mainly at the hypothalamic level, the potential direct effects of leptin at the pituitary and gonadal level have been poorly characterised. In the present study, we first assessed the ability of leptin to regulate testicular testosterone secretion in vitro. Secondly, we aimed to evaluate whether leptin can modulate basal gonadotrophin and prolactin (PRL) release by incubated hemi-pituitaries from fasted male rats. To attain the first goal, testicular slices from prepubertal and adult rats were incubated with increasing concentrations (10(-9)-10(-7) M) of recombinant leptin. Assuming that in vitro testicular responsiveness to leptin may be dependent on the background leptin levels, testicular tissue from both food-deprived and normally-fed animals was used. Furthermore, leptin modulation of stimulated testosterone secretion was evaluated by incubation of testicular samples with different doses of leptin in the presence of 10 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). In addition, analysis of leptin actions on pituitary function was carried out using hemi-pituitaries from fasted adult male rats incubated in the presence of increasing concentrations (10(-9)-10(-7) M) of recombinant leptin. Serum testosterone levels, and basal and hCG-stimulated testosterone secretion by incubated testicular tissue were significantly decreased by fasting in prepubertal and adult male rats. However, a significant reduction in circulating LH levels was only evident in adult fasted rats. Doses of 10(-9)-10(-7) M leptin had no effect on basal or hCG-stimulated testosterone secretion by testes from prepubertal rats, regardless of the nutritional state of the donor animal. In contrast, leptin significantly decreased basal and hCG-induced testosterone secretion by testes from fasted and fed adult rats. In addition, 10(-9) M leptin inhibited LH and FSH secretion by incubated hemi-pituitaries from fasted adult males, whereas, at all doses tested, it was ineffective in modulating PRL release. Our results show that leptin, depending on the state of sexual maturation, is able to inhibit testosterone secretion acting at the testicular level. Furthermore, the present data suggest that the actions of leptin on the reproductive system are complex and are probably carried out at different levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
M Tena-Sempere, J Navarro, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, I Huhtaniemi and E Aguilar
The biological actions of estrogens on target cells are mediated by two nuclear receptors: the estrogen receptor (ER) alpha and the recently characterized ER beta. In the male rat, the physiological role of estrogens involves multiple actions, from masculinization of brain areas related to reproductive function and sexual behavior to regulation of testicular development and function. Paradoxically, however, administration of high doses of estrogen during the critical period of neonatal differentiation results in an array of defects in the reproductive axis that permanently disrupt male fertility. The focus of this study was to characterize the effects and mechanism(s) of action of neonatal estrogenization on the pattern of testicular ER alpha and beta gene expression during postnatal development. To this end, groups of male rats were treated at day 1 of age with estradiol benzoate (500 microg/rat), and testicular ER alpha and ER beta mRNA levels were assayed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR from the neonatal period until puberty (days 1-45 of age). Furthermore, the expression of androgen receptor (AR) mRNA was evaluated, given the partially overlapping pattern of tissue distribution of ER alpha, ER beta and AR messages in the developing rat testis. In addition, potential mechanisms for neonatal estrogen action were explored. Thus, to discriminate between direct effects and indirect actions through estrogen-induced suppression of serum gonadotropins, the effects of neonatal estrogenization were compared with those induced by blockade of gonadotropin secretion with a potent LHRH antagonist in the neonatal period. Our results indicate that neonatal exposure to estrogen differentially alters testicular expression of alpha and beta ER messages: ER alpha mRNA levels, as well as those of AR, were significantly decreased, whereas relative and total expression levels of ER beta mRNA increased during postnatal/prepubertal development after neonatal estrogen exposure, a phenomenon that was not mimicked by LHRH antagonist treatment. It is concluded that the effect of estrogen on the expression levels of ER alpha and beta mRNAs probably involves a direct action on the developing testis, and cannot be attributed to estrogen-induced suppression of gonadotropin secretion during the neonatal period.
L Pinilla, ML Barreiro, LC Gonzalez, M Tena-Sempere and E Aguilar
Hypothalamic differentiation in the female rat during the neonatal period is critically dependent on the steroid milieu, as permanent changes in reproductive function are observed after administration of oestradiol and testosterone during such a critical stage. Selective oestrogen modulators (SERMs) constitute a family of drugs that, depending on the tissue, are able to exert oestrogenic or antioestrogenic actions. The present experiments were conducted to analyse whether the SERMs, tamoxifen and raloxifene, can cause oestrogenic actions during the hypothalamic differentiation period. Postnatal female rats were injected between days 1 and 5 with 100 microg/day tamoxifen, raloxifene or ICI 182,780 (a pure antioestrogen). Other groups of animals were injected on day 1 of age with 100 microg oestradiol benzoate (OeB) or 1.25 mg testosterone propionate (TP) alone or in combination with raloxifene (500 microg/day between days 1 and 5). In all experimental groups, the age, body weight and concentrations of serum gonadotrophins at vaginal opening were recorded, whereas vaginal cyclicity and the negative and positive feedback between oestradiol and LH were monitored in adulthood. The results obtained confirmed the ability of high doses of OeB or TP to alter the normal differentiation of the brain permanently. They also reinforced the hypothesis that oestrogens are also necessary for normal brain differentiation in female rats because administration of a pure antioestrogen, such as ICI 182,780 permanently altered the function of the reproductive axis. In addition, our data provided evidence for different actions of the two SERMs under analysis (raloxifene and tamoxifen) upon peripheral targets, as raloxifene advanced vaginal opening whereas tamoxifen did not. In contrast, their actions on brain differentiation appeared similar and analogous to those obtained after neonatal administration of oestradiol, as evidenced by vaginal acyclicity, ovarian atrophy, sterility and abolition of negative and positive feedback between oestradiol and LH, thus suggesting an oestrogenic action of these SERMs on hypothalamic differentiation. Moreover, the oestrogenic activity of raloxifene was supported by its inability to block the effects of OeB and TP administered neonatally. In conclusion, the present results indicated that the SERMs, tamoxifen and raloxifene, exert an oestrogen-like effect upon hypothalamic differentiation of the neonatal female rat.
M J Vazquez, I Velasco and M Tena-Sempere
Puberty is driven by sophisticated neuroendocrine networks that timely activate the brain centers governing the reproductive axis. The timing of puberty is genetically determined; yet, puberty is also sensitive to numerous internal and external cues, among which metabolic/nutritional signals are especially prominent. Compelling epidemiological evidence suggests that alterations of the age of puberty are becoming more frequent; the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown, but the escalating prevalence of obesity and other metabolic/feeding disorders is possibly a major contributing factor. This phenomenon may have clinical implications, since alterations in pubertal timing have been associated to adverse health outcomes, including higher risk of earlier all-cause mortality. This urges for a better understanding of the neurohormonal basis of normal puberty and its deviations. Compelling evidence has recently documented the master role of hypothalamic neurons producing kisspeptins, encoded by Kiss1, in the neuroendocrine pathways controlling puberty. Kiss1 neurons seemingly participate in transmitting the regulatory actions of metabolic cues on pubertal maturation. Key cellular metabolic sensors, as the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and the fuel-sensing deacetylase, SIRT1, have been recently shown to participate also in the metabolic modulation of puberty. Recently, we have documented that AMPK and SIRT1 operate as major molecular effectors for the metabolic control of Kiss1 neurons and, thereby, puberty onset. Alterations of these molecular pathways may contribute to the perturbation of pubertal timing linked to conditions of metabolic stress in humans, such as subnutrition or obesity and might become druggable targets for better management of pubertal disorders.
M Tena-Sempere, PR Manna, FP Zhang, L Pinilla, LC Gonzalez, C Dieguez, I Huhtaniemi and E Aguilar
Leptin, the product of the ob gene, is a pivotal signal in the regulation of neuroendocrine function and fertility. Although much of the action of leptin in the control of the reproductive axis is exerted at the hypothalamic level, some direct effects of leptin on male and female gonads have also been reported. Indeed, recent evidence demonstrated that leptin is able to inhibit testosterone secretion at the testicular level. However, the molecular mechanisms behind this effect remain unclear. The focus of this study was twofold: (1) to identify potential targets for leptin-induced inhibition of steroidogenesis, and (2) to characterize in detail the pattern of expression and cellular distribution of leptin receptor (Ob-R) mRNA in adult rat testis. In pursuit of the first goal, slices of testicular tissue from adult rats were incubated with increasing concentrations of recombinant leptin (10(-9)--10(-7 )M) in the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG; 10 IU/ml). In this setting, testosterone secretion in vitro was monitored, and expression levels of mRNAs encoding steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1), steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), cytochrome P450 cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450 scc) and 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type III (17 beta-HSD) were assessed by Northern hybridization. In pursuit of the second goal, the pattern of cellular expression of the Ob-R gene in adult rat testis was evaluated by in situ hybridization using a riboprobe complementary to all Ob-R isoforms. In addition, testicular expression levels of the different Ob-R isoforms, previously identified in the hypothalamus, were analyzed by means of semi-quantitative RT-PCR. In keeping with our previous data, recombinant leptin significantly inhibited hCG-stimulated testosterone secretion. In this context, leptin, in a dose-dependent manner, was able to co-ordinately decrease the hCG-stimulated expression levels of SF-1, StAR and P450 scc mRNAs, but it did not affect those of 17 beta-HSD type III. In situ hybridization analysis showed a scattered pattern of cellular expression of the Ob-R gene within the adult rat testis, including Leydig and Sertoli cells. In addition, assessment of the pattern of expression of Ob-R subtypes revealed that the long Ob-Rb isoform was abundantly expressed in adult rat testis. However, variable levels of expression of Ob-Ra, Ob-Re, and Ob-Rf mRNAs were also detected, whereas those of the Ob-Rc variant were nearly negligible. In conclusion, our results indicate that decreased expression of mRNAs encoding several up-stream elements in the steroidogenic pathway may contribute, at least partially, to leptin-induced inhibition of testicular steroidogenesis. In addition, our data on the pattern of testicular expression of Ob-R isoforms and cellular distribution of Ob-R mRNA may help to further elucidate the molecular mechanisms of leptin action in rat testis.
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.