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TH Kruger, P Haake, J Haverkamp, M Kramer, MS Exton, B Saller, N Leygraf, U Hartmann and M Schedlowski

The neuroendocrine response to sexual activity in humans is characterized by a pronounced orgasm-dependent increase of plasma levels of prolactin. In contrast to the well-known inhibitory effects of chronic hyperprolactinemia on sexual drive and function, the impact of acute prolactin alterations on human sexual physiology is unknown. Therefore, this study was designed to investigate the effects of acute manipulation of plasma prolactin on sexual behavior.Ten healthy males participated in a single-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced cross-over design. Prolactin levels were pharmacologically increased to high levels (protirelin, 50 micro g i.v.) or reduced to low physiological concentrations (cabergoline, 0.5 mg p.o.). Sexual arousal and orgasm were then induced by an erotic film and masturbation. In addition to continuous neuroendocrine and cardiovascular recordings, the quality and intensity of the acute sexual drive, arousal, orgasm and refractory period were assessed by extensive psychometric measures.Administration of cabergoline decreased prolactin levels and significantly enhanced all parameters of sexual drive (P<0.05), function (P<0.01) and positive perception of the refractory period (P<0.01). Administration of protirelin increased prolactin concentrations and produced small, but not significant reductions of sexual parameters. The sexual effects observed from cabergoline were completely abrogated by coadministration of protirelin. Although different pharmacological sites of action of prolactin-altering drugs have to be considered, these data demonstrate that acute changes in prolactin plasma levels may be one factor modulating sexual drive and function. Therefore, besides a neuroendocrine reproductive reflex, a post-orgasmic prolactin increase may represent one factor modulating central nervous system centers controlling sexual drive and behavior. These findings may offer a new pharmacological approach for the treatment of sexual disorders.

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J. Th. J. Uilenbroek, H. M. A. Meijs-Roelofs, P. J. A. Woutersen, P. Kramer, W. A. van Cappellen, L. A. Gribling-Hegge and W. J. de Greef


To determine whether the decrease in ovarian 5α-reduced androgen production before first ovulation might be caused by an increase in serum LH, prepuberal female rats were injected at 28–31 days of age with low doses of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) (0·05–0·075 i.u., four times daily). This treatment resulted in ovulation of six to ten ova per rat on day 32 in all animals.

Treatment with hCG resulted in a gradual decrease in ovarian content and production (i.e. content in ovary and medium after 4 h of incubation) of 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and 5α-androstane-3α,17β-diol. The ovarian content of DHT and the production of 5α-androstane-3α,17β-diol decreased within 24 h after the first injection of hCG. Oestradiol content and production increased between 24 and 48 h after the start of treatment and was maximal on day 31 (day of pro-oestrus).

Activities of 5α-reductase and aromatase were measured in ovarian homogenates obtained on days 29–31. Activity of 5α-reductase in hCG-treated rats was lower than that in control rats on all days studied. Aromatase activity in hCG-treated rats increased between days 29 and 31.

It was concluded that multiple injections of low doses of hCG, which may induce ovulation, cause a decrease in 5α-reduced androgen production, which is probably due to a decrease in 5α-reductase activity. The subsequent increase in oestradiol production corresponds with an increase in aromatase activity. The results indicate that the decrease in 5α-reductase activity as observed in ovaries of spontaneously ovulating rats might be caused by the gradual increase in serum LH, which has been found to occur during the last week before first ovulation.

J. Endocr. (1985) 107, 113–119

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W A van Cappellen, H M A Meijs-Roelofs, P Kramer, E C M van Leeuwen, R de Leeuw and F H de Jong


The effects of a single injection of recombinant human FSH (rhFSH; Org32489) on ovulation rate and timing and on antral follicle growth were studied in adult 5-day cyclic rats. Rats injected at 1700 h on dioestrus-2 with a dose of 10 IU rhFSH showed, on average, no increase in ovulation rate on the day of expected oestrus. However, an additional, precocious ovulation resulting in a normal number of corpora lutea 13·3±0·4, n=6) was found to take place on the night after injection, i.e. dioestrus-3. No mating behaviour, as shown by the absence of vaginal plugs the next morning, was observed at this ovulation. Follicle counts showed a loss of large antral follicles due to ovulation and increased numbers of healthy small antral follicles at 17 and 41 h after injection, indicating a decrease of atresia of growing follicles as well as additional recruitment of new antral follicles. The endogenous serum FSH concentration on the subsequent day of oestrus (65 h after the rhFSH injection) as well as recruitment of small antral follicles were lower in the rhFSH-treated rats than in saline-treated controls. The ovulation at oestrus, 48 h after the precocious, rhFSH-induced ovulation showed large differences in the number of oocytes between the rats in one treatment group.

Similar results in terms of immediate ovulation induction were obtained by using a highly purified human urinary FSH preparation (i.e. metrodin). Furthermore, the direct induction of ovulation by rhFSH or metrodin could not be prevented by the injection of an LHRH antagonist.

It was concluded that rhFSH can induce acute ovulation in rats, and stimulates follicular development directly or indirectly through increased FSH levels after ovulation. It induces antral follicle growth and decreases early atresia in small antral follicles.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 144, 39–47

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W A van Cappellen, E C M van Leeuwen, H M A Meijs-Roelofs, P Kramer, H J Sander and F H de Jong


On the various days of the 5-day oestrous cycle of the rat, ovarian antral follicles were dissected out and grouped in five size classes. Four follicles of the same size class were homogenized jointly in medium, after which inhibin-like bioactivity, inhibin immunoreactivity and oestradiol-17β content were measured. In general, there was a significant correlation between immunologically and biologically active inhibin levels in the different size classes; overall correlation was 0·85 (n=87, P<0·00001). In the smallest antral follicles (classes 1 and 2) inhibin bioactivity was detected only during the first three days of the cycle. With increasing follicle size, inhibin bioactivity and immunoreactivity increased, with maximal activity present in the largest, i.e. preovulatory, follicles (class 5) during the last three days of the cycle (the day of oestrus denotes day 1 of the cycle). These results indicate that only follicles which reach the antral stage at oestrus, and are known to be recruited by the periovulatory FSH peak, acquire the potency to produce biologically active inhibin. This is the cohort of follicles from which selection of ovulatory follicles will normally take place.

In contrast to inhibin, follicular oestradiol-17β concentrations were negligible until the last days of the cycle when oestradiol-17β was present in follicles larger than class 2; levels increased with increasing follicle size and a maximal level was found in preovulatory follicles at pro-oestrus.

It is concluded that (1) there is a good correlation between follicular content of inhibin-like bioactivity and inhibin immunoreactivity and (2) there are differences between patterns of follicular levels of inhibin immunoreactivity and oestradiol-17β during the ovarian cycle: follicles destined to ovulate start to produce inhibin in volume classes 1 and 2 and only thereafter also contain oestradiol-17β. Follicles entering classes 1 and 2 at dioestrus-2 and -3 or at pro-oestrus do not produce inhibin and become atretic.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 146, 323–330

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J Th J Uilenbroek, P Kramer, E C M van Leeuwen, B Karels, M A Timmerman, F H de Jong and R de Leeuw


To investigate whether the progesterone antagonist RU486 has a direct effect on ovarian function, it was administered to immature female rats rendered hypogonadotrophic by administration of an LHRH antagonist and in which follicle development was stimulated by recombinant human FSH (recFSH).

In the first experiments the effects of LHRH antagonist and recFSH on follicle growth were evaluated. Female rats of 22 days of age were injected with an LHRH antagonist (Org 30276; 500 μg/100 g body weight) every other day. This treatment resulted in a tenfold decrease in serum LH concentrations and a twofold decrease in serum FSH concentrations at day 30 and caused a reduction in the number and size of antral follicles. Treatment with recFSH (Org 32489) twice daily from day 26 for 4 days in a total dose ranging from 5 to 20 IU/animal increased the number and size of antral follicles in a dose-related manner and resulted after 20 IU recFSH in a tenfold increase in the concentration of inhibin in serum and ovaries at day 30. Once it was established that LHRH antagonist treatment in immature rats could be used to study the effects of gonadotrophins or steroids on follicle function, this animal model was used to study the effects of RU486 on the ovary. RU486 was administered (twice daily for 4 days, 1 mg/injection) to LHRH antagonist-treated rats in which follicular growth and differentation were stimulated by 10 IU recFSH or by 10 IU recFSH plus 0·5 IU human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). RU486 had no effect on circulating levels of LH and FSH, but stimulated follicular atresia both in rats treated with recFSH alone and in rats treated with recFSH and hCG. Inhibin concentrations both in serum and ovaries were significantly increased after hCG treatment. RU486, however, did not increase inhibin in the rats treated with recFSH and in those treated with recFSH and hCG.

In summary, the present study has demonstrated that (1) immature rats treated with an LHRH antagonist can be used to study the effects of gonadotrophins and steroids on follicular function and (2) RU486 has a direct stimulatory effect on follicular atresia.

Journal of Endocrinology (1996) 150, 85–92

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H. J. Sander, P. Kramer, E. C. M. van Leeuwen, W. A. van Cappellen, H. M. A. Meijs-Roelofs and F. H. De Jong


Ovulation rate, follicle growth, serum FSH and oestradiol concentrations were studied after a single intraperitoneal injection of inhibin antiserum in 5-day-cyclic rats. Control rats received (non-immune) serum from castrated sheep or saline. Rats were injected at 10.00 h on dioestrus-1 (D1), i.e. the day following the day of oestrus, or at 17.00 h on dioestrus-2 (D2). The ovaries were excised at necropsy 48 h after injection, or at first or second oestrus after injection. After routine histology fresh corpora lutea were counted and/or differential follicle counts were made.

Results from rats injected with either (non-immune) serum from castrated sheep or with saline were not different and were therefore combined to form the control group. The activity of inhibin-neutralizing antibodies in the circulation of antiserum-treated rats was reduced by approximately 39% between 8 h and second oestrus after injection, as determined by the binding of purified bioactive radioiodinated 31 kDa bovine inhibin.

Rats were injected on D1 and killed at first oestrus. The number of fresh corpora lutea was significantly higher in antiserum-treated rats than in controls (13·9±0·4 vs 11·8±0·4; P < 0·05). Other rats injected on D1 were killed either 48 h or at the second oestrus after injection. Blood was collected 8, 16, 24 and 48 h and at first and second oestrus after injection. At 48 h after injection differential follicle counts showed that the ovaries of antiserum-treated rats contained approximately 32 more healthy follicles and 11 fewer atretic follicles than controls (both P < 0·05 vs control; data for follicles with volume > 100 × 105μm3 and diameter > 260 μm). The ovaries of the antiserum-treated group collected at second oestrus contained more corpora lutea than controls (17·5±0·5 vs 13·6±0·4; P < 0·001). Serum FSH levels at 8, 16, 24 and 48 h after antiserum injection were elevated (P < 0·05). Overall oestradiol levels in antiserum-treated rats were increased from 8 to 24 h and at first oestrus (P < 0·05) as compared with control rats. Further rats were injected on D2 and necropsied at first or second oestrus which caused ovulation rate to almost double at first oestrus (antiserum 23·7±1·4 vs control 12·4±0·4; P < 0·01), while at second oestrus there was no difference between antiserum-treated and control rats.

The rise in FSH level after injection of antiserum on D1 caused follicle recruitment in addition to that normally occurring on the morning of oestrus (36 h earlier) and reduced atresia, resulting in a moderately increased ovulation rate on the first and second oestrus after injection. If the interval between antiserum injection and the next oestrus was shortened (injection on D2), ovulation rate was doubled, while on the next oestrus (second) there was no difference compared with controls. It is concluded that inhibition is progressively involved in the control of follicle growth and ovulation rate via its effect on serum FSH levels during the oestrus cycle of the rat.

Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 130, 297–303

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J M M Rondeel, W Klootwijk, E Linkels, P H M Jeucken, W, L J Hofland, M E Everts, P Kramer, F H de Jong, G A C van Haasteren, S M Cockle, T J Visser and W J de Greef


Recent evidence shows that thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH) immunoreactivity in the rat anterior pituitary gland is accounted for by the TRH-like tripeptide prolineamide-glutamyl-prolineamide (pGlu-Glu-ProNH2, <EEP-NH2). The present study was undertaken to investigate further the regulation, localization and possible intrapituitary function of <EEP-NH2. Anterior pituitary levels of <EEP-NH2 were determined between days 5 and 35 of life, during the oestrous cycle and after treatment with the luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) antagonist Org 30276. Treatment of adult males with the LHRH antagonist either for 1 day (500 μg/100 g body weight) or for 5 days (50 μg/100 g body weight) reduced anterior pituitary <EEP-NH2 levels by 25–30% (P<0·05 versus saline-treated controls). Anterior pituitary <EEP-NH2 increased between days 5 and 35 of life. In females, these levels were 2- to 3-fold higher (P<0·05) than in males between days 15 and 25 after birth; these changes corresponded with the higher plasma follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels in the female rats. After day 25, <EEP-NH2 levels in female rats decreased in parallel with a decrease in plasma FSH. Injections with the LHRH antagonist (500 μg/100 g body weight), starting on day 22 of life, led to reduced contents of <EEP-NH2 in the anterior pituitary gland of female rats on days 26 and 30 (55 and 35% decrease respectively). Levels of <EEP-NH2 in the anterior pituitary gland did not change significantly during the oestrous cycle. Fractionation of anterior pituitary cells by unit gravity sedimentation was found to be compatible with the localization of <EEP-NH2 in gonadotrophs. In vitro, <EEP-NH2 dose-dependently inhibited TRH-stimulated growth hormone (GH) release from anterior pituitary cells obtained from neonatal rats, but no consistent effects were seen on the in vitro release of luteinizing hormone (LH), FSH, prolactin (PRL) or thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) under basal or TRH/LHRH-stimulated conditions. Furthermore, <EEP-NH2 did not affect the in vitro hormone release by anterior pituitary cells obtained from adult rats. In vivo, <EEP-NH2 (0·3–1·0 μg intravenously) did not affect plasma PRL, TSH, LH, FSH and GH in adult male rats. We conclude that <EEP-NH2 in the anterior pituitary gland is regulated by LHRH, is probably localized in gonadotrophs and may play a (paracrine) role in neonatal GH release.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 146, 293–300