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C Taragnat, A Bernier and J Fontaine

The storage pattern of gonadotrophins in the ewe pituitary was investigated during the oestrous cycle and after desensitization to GnRH using long-term treatment with a GnRH agonist, buserelin. Oestrous cycles in ewes were synchronized with progestagen sponges. Animals were allocated to two experiments. In the first, ewes were killed 36 h (before the preovulatory surge, n = 4), 48 h (end of the preovulatory surge, n = 5), 72 h (post-ovulation, n = 4) and 240 h (luteal phase, n = 3) after sponge removal. In the second experiment, another progestagen sponge was inserted in ewes 84 h after removal of the first sponge. Four ewes were infused continuously with buserelin (50 micrograms/day) for 15 days before killing. A further four ewes received no buserelin (controls). Pituitaries were collected and processed for immunocytochemistry to detect monohormonal (LH or FSH) and multihormonal (LH/FSH) cells. The percentages of LH or FSH immunoreactive cells in the pituitary were lower at the end of the preovulatory surge (7.4 +/- 0.3% and 1.2 +/- 0.3% respectively) compared with the other stages (11.4 +/- 0.5% and 5.4 +/- 0.7% respectively). Analysis of dual immunostaining showed the existence of monohormonal cells for LH and multihormonal cells (LH/FSH). No monohormonal cell for FSH was detected except at the end of the preovulatory surge when a few monohormonal FSH cells appeared (0.1 +/- 0.01% of pituitary cells). The percentage of monohormonal LH cells in the pituitary gland was similar in all studied stages of the oestrous cycle, whereas the percentage of multihormonal cells was lower at the end of the surge. In agonist-treated ewes, the percentages of LH or FSH immunoreactive cells (5.3 +/- 0.5% and 1.5 +/- 0.8% respectively) were decreased compared with controls (9.4 +/- 1% and 7.5 +/- 1.1% respectively). Analysis of the double immunostaining revealed a few monohormonal FSH cells (0.2 +/- 0.01% of pituitary cells) in agonist-treated ewes but not in controls. The percentage of monohormonal LH cells in the pituitary gland increased from 1.9 +/- 0.2% in controls to 3.8 +/- 0.3% in agonist-treated ewes, whereas multihormonal cells dropped from 7.5 +/- 1.1% to 1.3 +/- 0.7%. Our data suggest, therefore, that multihormonal cells contribute to gonadotrophin secretion, either during the preovulatory surge of the oestrous cycle or during the 'flare-up' effect initially induced by a GnRH agonist. Moreover, the appearance of monohormonal FSH cells in some conditions reflects a differential regulation of LH and FSH.

Free access

C Sallon, M O Faure, J Fontaine and C Taragnat

Recently, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 4 has been shown to inhibit FSH secretion in ewe. The detection of BMP4 mRNA and BMP receptors in the pituitary suggests that BMP4 can exert paracrine actions on FSH production. This work aimed at determining whether BMP4 and/or BMP receptor mRNA as well as activin/inhibin subunit mRNA fluctuates during the estrous cycle when FSHβ mRNA and FSH release changed. The estrous cycles of ewes were synchronized with progestagen sponges. Ewes were killed in late follicular stage (n=5), before the secondary FSH surge (n=4), and in luteal phase (n=4). Using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR, we showed that the levels of mRNA for BMP4, BMP receptor, the inhibitor of differentiation 2 (Id2), a target gene of BMP4, and noggin did not change significantly across the estrous cycle. In contrast, the level of activin βB mRNA and the percentage of immunoreactive cells for activin βB-subunit were higher before the secondary surge of FSH compared to other groups. In ewe pituitary cell cultures, activin, GnRH, or estradiol-17β (E2) did not significantly affect the levels of BMP4, BMP receptor, and Id2 mRNA. E2, but not GnRH, increased the level of activin βB mRNA. Moreover, the in vitro FSH release was not modified by noggin, a BMP antagonist. In contrast, SB431542, an inhibitor of activin pathway, inhibited FSH release. Collectively, our data showed that pituitary BMP4 would not play a crucial role in the regulation of FSH production during the estrous cycle, whereas local activin B would be a major stimulus of FSH synthesis necessary for the secondary FSH surge.

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V Chabot, T Magallon, C Taragnat and Y Combarnous

alpha-Subunit dissociated from glycoprotein hormones has been previously shown to stimulate rat pituitary lactotroph differentiation and proliferation. However, whether the free form of the alpha-subunit (free alpha) can also play such a role is not known. To test whether free alpha may act on prolactin (PRL) release from ovine foetal pituitaries, this molecule was purified and two major isoforms, alphaA and alphaB were isolated. Free alphaA was found to be more acidic and more hydrophobic than both free alphaB and ovine LH alpha-subunit (oLHalpha). Free alphaA and oLHalpha exhibited a molecular mass of 14 kDa as determined by mass spectrometry, whereas free alphaB displayed a molecular mass of only 13.5 kDa because of its truncated N-terminus. All three alpha molecules bear mature-type N-linked saccharide chains including Nacetyl galactosamine residues but none of them contains O-linked oligosaccharide. The free alphaA isoform, more than the oLHalpha, was able to stimulate PRL release from ovine foetal pituitary explants in culture, whereas the free alphaB isoform displayed no activity. Moreover, the free alphaA and alphaB isoforms were able to recombine with the ovine LH beta-subunit (oLHbeta). The free alphaB/oLHbeta, and the oLHalpha/oLHbeta dimer were 4-fold more active than the free alphaA/oLHbeta dimer in a specific LH radioreceptor assay and in the stimulation of testosterone release from rat Leydig cells. The present study demonstrates that the two free alpha isoforms of ovine glycoprotein hormones exhibit distinct efficiencies in stimulating PRL release from ovine foetal pituitaries. Moreover, despite their identical ability to recombine with the oLHbeta, the free alpha isoform, which is the most efficient on PRL release, is the least efficient in conferring LH activity on the alpha/beta dimer.

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A Gomez Brunet, A Gomez Brunet, B Malpaux, A Daveau, C Taragnat and P Chemineau

Genetic variability in plasma melatonin concentrations in ewes results from variations in pineal weight. This study investigated whether it is due to a difference in the number of pinealocytes, or in their size. Two groups of lambs were assigned before birth to being extremes (18 High and 21 Low) by calculating their genetic value on the basis of the melatonin concentrations of their parents. Lambs were bled from 1 week of age until 14 weeks of age. Pineal gland, brain and pituitary weights, length and width of the brain, and length of the hypothalamus were recorded. A significant effect (ANOVA) of genetic group (P<0.05) and age (P<0.05) was detected on mean nocturnal plasma melatonin concentrations, as soon as the first week after birth (mean +/- s.e.m.; High: 51.7 +/- 10.7 vs Low: 31.9 +/- 3.2 pg/ml). There was no difference between the two genetic groups in any of the brain parameters measured, but the pineal glands of the High group were heavier and contained significantly more pinealocytes (High: 27.8 +/- 2.4 vs Low: 21.0 +/- 2.4 x 10(6); P<0.05) than those in the Low group. The mean size of pinealocytes did not differ between the two genetic groups. Thus, the genetic variability in nocturnal plasma melatonin concentrations in sheep is expressed by 1 week of age and higher levels of secretion are the consequence of larger pineal glands containing a greater number of pinealocytes.

Free access

A Fafioffe, JF Ethier, J Fontaine, E JeanPierre, C Taragnat and J Dupont

In mammals, activin and inhibin are important regulators of FSH secretion. Previous studies have demonstrated that primary ovine pituitary cells express different activin receptor subtypes: activin receptor-like (ALK)2, ALK4, activin type II receptor A (ActRIIA), ActRIIB and Smad proteins in vitro. Here, we have carried out physiological studies to investigate the pattern of mRNA expression of the activin receptor subunits in the ewe pituitary throughout the oestrous cycle. The oestrous cycles of ewes were synchronized with progestagen sponges. The animals were killed 36 h (before the preovulatory surge, n=4), 48 h (during the preovulatory surge, n=4), 72 h (during the second surge of FSH, n=6) and 192 h (during the luteal phase, n=4) after sponge removal. Using Northern blots, we have shown that the levels of ALK2, ALK4 and ActRIIB mRNA were significantly higher before the preovulatory surge and during the secondary surge of FSH as compared with both during the preovulatory surge and the luteal phase, whereas the level of the ActRIIA mRNA was similar throughout the oestrous cycle. Using Western blots we have also demonstrated that the level of phospho-Smad2 did not vary during the reproductive cycle. Inhibin binding protein (InhBP/p120) and the transforming growth factor-beta type III receptor, betaglycan, have been identified as putative inhibin co-receptors. In this study, we cloned a fragment of both InhBP/p120 and betaglycan cDNAs in the ewe and showed by Northern blot that pituitary betaglycan and InhBP/p120 mRNA levels did not fluctuate across the oestrous cycle nor did they correlate with serum FSH levels.

Free access

M-O Faure, L Nicol, S Fabre, J Fontaine, N Mohoric, A McNeilly and C Taragnat

Activins and inhibins, members of the transforming growth factor-beta family are able to stimulate and inhibit, respectively, FSH synthesis and release. Other members of this superfamily, the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), may also affect FSH synthesis in the mouse. The aim of this work was to determine whether BMPs are expressed in the ovine pituitary and whether they play a role in the regulation of FSH release.

The mRNAs encoding BMP-2, BMP-4, BMP-7 and the oocyte-derived growth factor, growth differentiation factor (GDF)-9 were detected in the pituitaries of cyclic ewes by reverse-transcriptase PCR, as well as the mRNAs encoding the BMP type I receptors, BMPR-IA (activin-receptor-like kinase (ALK)-3) and BMPR-IB (ALK-6), and type II receptors (BMPR-II). Immunolabeling of pituitary sections revealed the presence of BMPR-IA (ALK-3) and BMPR-II in gonadotrope cells. To investigate the potential effects of BMPs on FSH secretion, ewe pituitary cell cultures were treated with BMP-4 (10−11 M to 10−9 M) for 48 h. Interestingly, FSH release was decreased in a dose-dependent manner. At 10−9 M BMP-4 both FSH concentration and FSHβ mRNA expression were reduced by 40% of control values. In contrast, there was no inhibitory effect on either LH or LHβ mRNA expression. A similar result was found with BMP-6. BMP-4 triggered the phosphorylation of Smad1, suggesting that the effect of BMP-4 on FSH secretion is due to the activation of the BMPs signaling pathway. Furthermore, BMP-4 blocked the stimulatory effect of activin on both FSH release and FSHβ mRNA and amplified the suppression of FSH release and FSHβ mRNA levels induced by 17β-estradiol. These results indicate that a functional BMP system operates within the sheep pituitary, at least in vitro, to decrease FSH release and to modulate the effect of activin.

Open access

L Nicol, M-O Faure, J R McNeilly, J Fontaine, C Taragnat and A S McNeilly

We have shown previously that, in sheep primary pituitary cells, bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP)-4 inhibits FSHβ mRNA expression and FSH release. In contrast, in mouse LβT2 gonadotrophs, others have shown a stimulatory effect of BMPs on basal or activin-stimulated FSHβ promoter-driven transcription. As a species comparison with our previous results, we used LβT2 cells to investigate the effects of BMP-4 on gonadotrophin mRNA and secretion modulated by activin and GnRH. BMP-4 alone had no effect on FSH production, but enhanced the activin+GnRH-induced stimulation of FSHβ mRNA and FSH secretion, without any effect on follistatin mRNA. BMP-4 reduced LHβ mRNA up-regulation in response to GnRH (±activin) and decreased GnRH receptor expression, which would favour FSH, rather than LH, synthesis and secretion. In contrast to sheep pituitary gonadotrophs, which express only BMP receptor types IA (BMPRIA) and II (BMPRII), LβT2 cells also express BMPRIB. Smad1/5 phosphorylation induced by BMP-4, indicating activation of BMP signalling, was the same whether BMP-4 was used alone or combined with activin±GnRH. We hypothesized that activin and/or GnRH pathways may be modulated by BMP-4, but neither the activin-stimulated phosphorylation of Smad2/3 nor the GnRH-induced ERK1/2 or cAMP response element-binding phosphorylation were modified. However, the GnRH-induced activation of p38 MAPK was decreased by BMP-4. This was associated with increased FSHβ mRNA levels and FSH secretion, but decreased LHβ mRNA levels. These results confirm 1. BMPs as important modulators of activin and/or GnRH-stimulated gonadotrophin synthesis and release and 2. important species differences in these effects, which could relate to differences in BMP receptor expression in gonadotrophs.