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Rob Zachow and Mehmet Uzumcu

The hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) system comprises HGF, its receptor (the c-met tyrosine kinase), HGF activator (HGFA) protein, and HGFA inhibitor (HAI). The components of the HGF system have been identified in a plethora of tissues to include the ovary and testis. In its traditional context, the HGF system works via paracrine- and autocrine-mediated feedback in which HGF (of mesenchymal origin) binds and activates c-met (within epithelial cells); target cells then respond to HGF via any number of morphogenic and functional changes. The concomitant presence of HGFA and HAI suggests that HGF bioactivity can be locally modulated. A number of studies have collectively shown that the mammalian ovary and testis contain HGF, c-met, and HGFA; very little is currently known regarding HAI within the gonad. Within the ovary, HGF controls numerous key functions which collectively regulate the growth and differentiation of ovarian follicles; these include cell growth, steroidogenesis, and apoptosis within theca cells and/or granulosa cells. Comparatively, less is known about the function of HGF within the testicular Leydig and Sertoli cells, but evidence is emerging that HGF may regulate somatic cell function, including Leydig cell steroidogenesis. Changes in the cellular origin of HGF and c-met during fetal and postnatal testicular development suggest that HGF, in collaboration with other growth factors, may regulate important aspects of testicular cell morphogenesis and differentiation which enable male sexual viability. Likewise, experimental evidence showing that HGF can modulate many vital processes which enable ovarian follicle growth, differentiation, and function indicate the importance of HGF in female reproduction. This review presents what is currently known regarding the expression of the HGF system and its function within the ovary and testis.

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Mehmet Uzumcu, Peter E Kuhn, Jason E Marano, AnnMarie E Armenti and Lisa Passantino

Methoxychlor [1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-methoxyphenyl) ethane; MXC] is a chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticide commonly used in the United States as a replacement for DDT [1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane]. While MXC is a weak estrogenic compound, its more active, major metabolite [2,2-bis(p-hydroxyphenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane; HPTE] shows estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, or anti-androgenic properties depending on the receptor subtype with which it interacts. Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) is a paracrine factor that suppresses initial follicle recruitment in the ovary. Studies have shown the effects of exposure to MXC on adult ovarian morphology and function. However, the effect of exposure to MXC at an early postnatal stage on pre-pubertal follicular development and ovarian AMH production has not been studied. Around postnatal day (P) 4, most of the primordial follicular assembly in rats is complete, and a large number of primordial follicles transition into the primary follicle stage, a process that is inhibited by estrogen. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of early postnatal (P3–P10) MXC exposure on ovarian morphology and size, follicle number, and AMH production in the pre-pubertal (P20) rat ovary and to investigate the effect of HPTE on AMH production in immature rat granulosa cells in vitro. Female rats were injected (s.c.) daily with vehicle (control) or 1, 10, 50, 100, or 500 mg MXC/kg per day (referred to here as 1MXC, 10MXC, and so forth.) between P3 and P10. On P20, uterine and ovarian weights were determined, ovarian histology was examined, and follicles were counted and classified into primordial, primary, secondary, pre-antral, or antral stages using the two largest serial sections at the center of the ovary. Ovarian AMH production was examined using immunohistochemistry and western blot analysis. The effect of HPTE (0.5–25 μM) on AMH production in cultured immature rat granulosa cells was determined by western blot analysis. Ovarian weight was reduced by 50, 100, and 500MXC (P < 0.01). MXC treatment inhibited folliculogenesis. Both 100 and 500MXC had a reduced number of antral follicles (P < 0.05) with a concomitant increase in pre-antral follicles (P < 0.05). Follicle numbers were not significantly affected by 1, 10, or 50MXC. Total follicle number and the number of primordial, primary, or secondary stage follicles were not significantly different in all treatment groups. Immunohistochemistry showed that MXC-treated ovaries had more AMH-positive follicles with stronger AMH immunostaining. Western blot analysis showed that AMH production was 1.6 ± 0.2, 1.85 ± 0.6, and 2.2 ± 0.5 times higher in the 50, 100, and 500MXC ovaries as compared with the control ovaries respectively (P < 0.05). Granulosa cells treated with 1 or 5 μM HPTE had significantly greater AMH production (P < 0.05). These results demonstrate that MXC inhibits early ovarian development and stimulates AMH production directly in the rat ovary. In addition, HPTE was shown to stimulate AMH production in rat granulosa cells. Endocrine disruptors are widespread in the environment, and MXC represents a model endocrine disruptor due to the multiple actions of its metabolites. This study confirms that the endocrine disruptor MXC inhibits follicular development and demonstrates for the first time that MXC and HPTE directly stimulate AMH productionin the ovary. Thisnovel finding suggests that elevated AMH may play a role in MXC’s inhibitory effect in the ovary.