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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.

Free access

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.

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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.

Free access

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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Thomas M Braxton, Dionne E A Sarpong, Janine L Dovey, Anne Guillou, Bronwen A J Evans, Juan M Castellano, Bethany E Keenan, Saja Baraghithy, Sam L Evans, Manuel Tena-Sempere, Patrice Mollard, Joseph Tam and Timothy Wells

Human Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS) is characterised by impairments of multiple systems including the growth hormone (GH) axis and skeletal growth. To address our lack of knowledge of the influence of PWS on skeletal integrity in mice, we have characterised the endocrine and skeletal phenotype of the PWS-ICdel mouse model for ‘full’ PWS and determined the impact of thermoneutrality. Tibial length, epiphyseal plate width and marrow adiposity were reduced by 6, 18 and 79% in male PWS-ICdel mice, with osteoclast density being unaffected. Similar reductions in femoral length accompanied a 32% reduction in mid-diaphyseal cortical diameter. Distal femoral Tb.N was reduced by 62%, with individual trabeculae being less plate-like and the lattice being more fragmented (Tb.Pf increased by 63%). Cortical strength (ultimate moment) was reduced by 26% as a result of reductions in calcified tissue strength and the geometric contribution. GH and prolactin contents in PWS-ICdel pituitaries were reduced in proportion to their smaller pituitary size, with circulating IGF-1 concentration reduced by 37–47%. Conversely, while pituitary luteinising hormone content was halved, circulating gonadotropin concentrations were unaffected. Although longitudinal growth, marrow adiposity and femoral geometry were unaffected by thermoneutrality, strengthened calcified tissue reversed the weakened cortex of PWS-ICdel femora. While underactivity of the GH axis may be due to loss of Snord116 expression and impaired limb bone geometry and strength due to loss of Magel2 expression, comprehensive analysis of skeletal integrity in the single gene deletion models is required. Our data imply that thermoneutrality may ameliorate the elevated fracture risk associated with PWS.