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MT Rae, GS Menzies, and TA Bramley

We have shown recently that the bovine corpus luteum (CL) possesses specific luteal cell surface membrane binding sites for progesterone. We have now confirmed and extended these observations to compare the subcellular distribution of these binding sites in developing, mature and regressing CL. The median buoyant densities of luteal progesterone binding sites from early-, mid- and late-luteal phase CL were similar (though three of five density profiles for late-luteal phase CL showed association of steroid binding with a fraction with a lower density), and clearly resolved from nuclear, mitochondrial, lysosomal, peroxisomal, Golgi-endoplasmic reticulum-lysosomal and smooth endoplasmic reticulum markers. Specific binding of [3H]progesterone overlapped with the distributions of 5'-nucleotidase and luteinizing hormone receptor (luteal cell surface membrane markers) in both control and digitonin-treated gradients at all stages of the luteal phase. Since steroidogenic 'large luteal' and 'small luteal' cells of the CL are derived from the granulosa cells (GC) and theca of the preovulatory follicle, we also investigated whether similar receptors were present in the follicle, and describe for the first time specific membrane binding sites for progesterone in purified GC and thecal membranes from healthy bovine follicles of different sizes. Specific binding increased linearly with GC and thecal membrane protein concentration; however, it was detectable only when digitonin was included in the binding incubation. Binding sites were specific for progesterone; unlabelled progesterone competed for [3H]progesterone binding at low concentrations (IC50, 35 and 31 nmol/l) compared with testosterone (IC50, 905 and 870 nmol/l) and delta4-androstenedione (IC50, 1050 and 660 nmol/l) for GC and thecal receptors respectively. In contrast, oestradiol, oestrone, pregnenolone, cortisol, cholesterol, and a genomic progesterone receptor antagonist, RU486, competed poorly. Steroid binding was present in GC and thecal membranes of follicles of all sizes, but [3H]progesterone binding to GC membranes decreased significantly with increasing follicle size (P<0.02), perhaps indicating developmental regulation of GC membrane non-genomic progesterone receptors in the preovulatory bovine follicle. We suggest that these membrane steroid receptors may be involved in the autocrine/paracrine regulation of follicular function by progesterone.

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MT Rae, SM Rhind, CE Kyle, DW Miller, and AN Brooks

The aims of this study were to determine which hormones may have a role in the expression of maternal undernutrition effects on reproductive function, in both the developing fetus and the adult offspring. This was undertaken by measuring the effects of long-term maternal undernutrition on metabolic hormone profiles and pituitary responses to single doses of GnRH and GH-releasing factor (GRF) in fetal sheep. From mating, groups of ewes were fed rations providing either 100% (HIGH) or 50% (LOW) of estimated metabolisable energy requirements for pregnancy throughout the experiment until slaughter at approximately 119 days of gestation. Fetal and maternal blood samples were collected from 113 until 119 days of gestation, via carotid and jugular catheters respectively, and assayed for insulin, IGF-I, GH, thyroxine and triiodothyronine (T(3)). Undernutrition had no effects on fetal weight, fetal gonad weight of either sex, fetal insulin or IGF-I concentrations. Male LOW fetuses exhibited a significantly attenuated response (P<0.05) to a bolus challenge of GnRH compared with HIGH fetuses. Basal fetal GH concentrations and the response to exogenous GRF were similar in both treatment groups, although LOW fetuses exhibited more secretory episodes (P<0.01). Mean T(3) concentrations were significantly lower in both the maternal (P<0.01) and fetal (P<0.05) plasma of LOW animals compared with HIGH animals. It is concluded that pituitary function was altered in fetal males and could influence male reproductive development. On the other hand, in female sheep, fetal gonadal abnormalities and reductions in reproductive capacity in adult life which are associated with fetal undernutrition are unlikely to be attributable to altered pituitary function. Additionally, these studies raise the possibility that thyroid hormones may have a role in the expression of maternal undernutrition effects on fetal development.