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SE Dickson, R Bicknell and HM Fraser

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is essential for the angiogenesis required for the formation of the corpus luteum; however, its role in ongoing luteal angiogenesis and in the maintenance of the established vascular network is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether VEGF inhibition could intervene in ongoing luteal angiogenesis using immunoneutralisation of VEGF starting in the mid-luteal phase. In addition, the effects on endothelial cell survival and the recruitment of periendothelial support cells were examined. Treatment with a monoclonal antibody to VEGF, or mouse gamma globulin for control animals, commenced on day 7 after ovulation and continued for 3 days. Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), used to label proliferating cells to obtain a proliferation index, was administered one hour before collecting ovaries from control and treated animals. Ovarian sections were stained using antibodies to BrdU, the endothelial cell marker, CD31, the pericyte marker, alpha-smooth muscle actin, and 3' end DNA fragments as a marker for apoptosis. VEGF immunoneutralisation significantly suppressed endothelial cell proliferation and the area occupied by endothelial cells while increasing pericyte coverage and the incidence of endothelial cell apoptosis. Luteal function was markedly compromised by anti-VEGF treatment as judged by a 50% reduction in plasma progesterone concentration. It is concluded that ongoing angiogenesis in the mid-luteal phase is primarily driven by VEGF, and that a proportion of endothelial cells of the mid-luteal phase vasculature are dependent on VEGF support.

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F McManus, R Fraser, E Davies, J M C Connell and E M Freel

The importance of corticosteroids in cardiovascular and other chronic disease is recognised. In addition, plasma steroid precursor-to-product ratios are useful and convenient indirect indicators of efficiency of key steroidogenic enzymes (aldosterone synthase, 11β-hydroxylase and 17α-hydroxylase). The use of liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) has enabled measurement of numerous corticosteroid compounds simultaneously. However, normal responses to trophins and variation in salt intake are not well described. This study examined these parameters in a large group of healthy volunteers. Sixty normotensive volunteers were recruited and underwent infusion of angiotensin II (AngII) and ACTH, following low- and high-salt diet. Measurement of plasma steroids at baseline and 30 min after infusion of trophin was carried out by LC–MS. As expected, plasma mineralocorticoid levels increased in response to salt restriction and were suppressed with salt loading; ACTH infusion increased all corticosteroids, while AngII increased mineralocorticoids and suppressed glucocorticoid production. ACTH increased S:F but decreased DOC:B, thus the S:F ratio is a more appropriate index of 11β-hydroxylase efficiency. The B:F ratio increased following ACTH treatment and salt restriction. A larger proportion of plasma B than generally accepted may be derived from the zona glomerulosa and this ratio may be most informative of 17α-hydroxylase activity in salt-replete subjects. Although DOC:aldosterone, B:aldosterone and 18-hydroxyB:aldosterone should provide indices of aldosterone synthase efficiency, responses of individual compounds to trophins suggest that none of them accurately reflect this. Based on these data, aldosterone synthase activity is most accurately reflected by aldosterone concentration alone.

Free access

B Byrne, A McGregor, PL Taylor, R Sellar, FE Rodger, HM Fraser and KA Eidne

In order to facilitate the understanding of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist and antagonist action in the primate animal model, the marmoset GnRH receptor (GnRH-R) was cloned and characterised. It was shown to have 95% and 85% sequence identity with the human and rat GnRH-Rs, respectively, and, when transiently expressed in COS-7 cells, it exhibited high-affinity des-Gly(10), [d-Trp(6)]-GnRH binding, with a K(d) value similar to those of both the rat and human forms, but with a greatly reduced B(max) value. The ED(50) for production of GnRH-induced total inositol phosphate (IP) for the marmoset GnRH-R was also similar to those of the rat and the human, but the maximal response compared with the rat receptor was markedly reduced. In all mammalian forms of the GnRH-R cloned to date, the conserved DRY region of G-protein-coupled receptors is substituted with DRS. The most interesting feature of the marmoset GnRH-R was the substitution of this motif with DRF. In order to investigate the DRS to DRF substitution, a Ser(140)Phe rat GnRH-R mutant was generated. The mutant had a K(d) value similar to that of the wild-type rat receptor, although the B(max) value was slightly lower, indicating that expression of functional mutant receptor at the cell surface was reduced. The ED(50) value for IP production was also similar to that of the wild-type receptor, with a reduction in maximal response. The level of internalisation for the rat wild-type and mutant GnRH-R constructs was also assessed and the Ser(140)Phe mutant was shown to have an increased rate of receptor internalisation, suggesting a role for this residue in regulating internalisation. These results show that the marmoset GnRH-R exhibits a substitution in the DRS motif and that this substitution may play a part in desensitisation and internalisation events.

Open access

Ping Ye, Christopher J Kenyon, Scott M MacKenzie, Katherine Nichol, Jonathan R Seckl, Robert Fraser, John M C Connell and Eleanor Davies

Using a highly sensitive quantitative RT-PCR method for the measurement of CYP11B1 (11β-hydroxylase) and CYP11B2 (aldosterone synthase) mRNAs, we previously demonstrated that CYP11B2 expression in the central nervous system (CNS) is subject to regulation by dietary sodium. We have now quantified the expression of these genes in the CNS of male Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats in response to systemic ACTH infusion, dexamethasone infusion, and to adrenalectomy. CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 mRNA levels were measured in total RNA isolated from the adrenal gland and discrete brain regions using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. ACTH infusion (40 ng/day for 7 days, N=8) significantly increased CYP11B1 mRNA in the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and cerebral cortex compared with animals infused with vehicle only. ACTH infusion decreased adrenal CYP11B2 expression but increased expression in all of the CNS regions except the cortex. Dexamethasone (10 μg/day for 7 days, N=8) reduced adrenal CYP11B1 mRNA compared with control animals but had no significant effect on either gene's expression in the CNS. Adrenalectomy (N=6 per group) significantly increased CYP11B1 expression in the hippocampus and hypothalamus and raised CYP11B2 expression in the cerebellum relative to sham-operated animals. This study confirms the transcription of CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 throughout the CNS and demonstrates that gene transcription is subject to differential regulation by ACTH and circulating corticosteroid levels.