The aim of this study was to examine the inhibitory effect of the non-aromatizable androgens on FSH-stimulated aromatase activity in porcine granulosa cells. The cells were isolated from medium-sized follicles (4–6 mm) of prepubertal pigs, and cultured under chemically defined conditions in the presence of FSH (1 μg/ml, NIADDK-oFSH-S13) with and without the androgens for an initial 48-h induction period. Subsequently, the spent medium was replaced with fresh medium containing only testosterone as substrate and the cells were reincubated for a further 6 h. The conversion of this steroid to oestradiol-17β during this latter 'test' period was taken as a measure of the aromatase activity. The addition of 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) into cultures of FSH-stimulated cells during the induction period resulted in a definite dose-dependent inhibition (30–70%) of the aromatase activity expressed in the test period. This inhibitory action, of the mixed non-competitive type, is characterized by a decrease in the apparent V max and an increase in the K m value, suggestive of an androgen inhibition of FSH-stimulated aromatase synthesis. This inhibition was also shown by the other 5α- and 5β-reduced androgens: 5β-androstanedione was the most effective, while DHT was the least. Other steroids such as pregnenolone and progesterone were inhibitory, but testosterone and diethylstilboestrol were stimulatory. These results suggest an important mechanism for the intrafollicular control of oestrogen synthesis, involving a possible reciprocal relationship between aromatase and 5α-reductase activities.
J. Endocr. (1986) 108, 335–341