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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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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, G Hernandez, C Bellido, D Gonzalez, M Tébar, M A Diaz-Cruz, and R Alonso


The antiprogesterone RU486 injected on the morning of pro-oestrus blunts the preovulatory secretion of LH and FSH and abolishes the secondary secretion of FSH during oestrus without affecting ovulation in the rat. To ascertain whether the secretion of LHRH is involved in these effects, we studied the effects of RU486 (4 mg/0·2 ml oil), given s.c. at 0800 h on pro-oestrus, on LHRH secretion into the pituitary stalk blood vessels and on peripheral plasma concentrations of LH and FSH at 1800 h on pro-oestrus and 0200 h on oestrus. Furthermore, we determined the effects of an s.c. injection of 1 mg of an LHRH antagonist (LHRH-A; ORG30276) at 2000 h on pro-oestrus and those of an i.p. injection of 100 ng LHRH (Peninsula 7201) at 0100 h on oestrus on serum concentrations of LH, FSH and oestradiol at 0200 h on oestrus in oil- and RU486-treated rats.

RU486 decreased LHRH secretion at 1800 h on prooestrus while this was increased at 0200 h on oestrus. While the reduction of preovulatory LHRH secretion in RU486-treated rats coincided with a reduction in both LH and FSH surges during the evening of pro-oestrus, the increased LHRH secretion during the early hours of oestrus was only accompanied by an increased concentration of LH. An injection of LHRH stimulated, while that of LHRH-A inhibited serum concentrations of LH at 0200 h on oestrus in both oil- and RU486-treated rats. An injection of LHRH-A had no effect on FSH concentration at 0200 h on oestrus in either oil- or RU486-treated rats. On the contrary, exogenous LHRH increased FSH concentration at 0200 h on oestrus only in oil-treated rats.

The results indicate that, in the rat, progesterone secretion during the afternoon and evening of pro-oestrus enhances preovulatory LHRH and suppresses LHRH release during early oestrus into the pituitary stalk blood vessels on the afternoon of pro-oestrus and during early oestrus respectively. While the secretion of LH during early oestrus is blunted by progesterone and entirely coupled to LHRH secretion, the secondary secretion of FSH during oestrus is not dependent on endogenous LHRH and at the same time is completely dependent on the actions (direct and/or indirect) of progesterone.

Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 141, 7–14

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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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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.

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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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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.