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T Harada, H Koi, T Kubota, and T Aso

Haem oxygenases produce carbon monoxide, which, like nitric oxide, is a gaseous messenger molecule that is one of several important survival factors in ovarian follicles. However, little is known about the expression and possible functions of these enzymes in granulosa cells. The purpose of this study was to investigate the expression and possible role of haem oxygenases in porcine granulosa cells (PGCs). We obtained frozen sections of porcine ovaries and PGCs from ovarian follicles of various sizes by needle aspiration, and examined the expression of haem oxygenase-1 (HO-1; inducible type) and HO-2 (constitutive type) in PGCs by immunohistochemistry, RT-PCR, western blotting and flow cytometry. Both types of haem oxygenase were identified in PGCs throughout follicular development, but HO-1 was expressed primarily in granulosa cells in atretic follicles. We also investigated the effect of haem oxygenases on apoptosis of granulosa cells (flow cytometry to detect subdiploid DNA fluorescence) and on expression of Fas ligand (quantitative analysis of western blotting and flow cytometry). In tightly bound PGCs, the mean proportion of apoptotic cells treated with 1 microM haemin (a haem oxygenase substrate) was approximately 1.7-fold greater than that in untreated controls, and zinc protoporphyrin IX (ZnPP IX; a haem oxygenase inhibitor) completely inhibited the increase in apoptosis induced by haemin in 24-h culture. Conversely, in weakly associated PGCs, the proportion of apoptotic cells was not altered by haemin. The quantity of Fas ligand protein was increased in a dose-dependent manner in tightly bound PGCs treated with haemin compared with controls, and the haemin-induced increase in Fas ligand protein was inhibited by ZnPP IX. Thus we identified inducible HO-1 and constitutive HO-2 in PGCs throughout follicular development, and we conclude that products of reactions catalysed by haem oxygenases are likely to be important autocrine/paracrine factors that regulate apoptosis in PGCs.

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Plasma levels of unconjugated oestrone, oestradiol, oestriol and progesterone were serially studied in six uncomplicated patients in the mid-trimester of pregnancy before and during abortion induced by purely mechanical stretching of the uterus by laminaria and rubber balloon. Variability of these hormonal levels among patients was significant before the treatment. In four cases where the fetus was aborted alive, the plasma value of these hormones remained at a high level during the treatment with the exception of oestriol level in one case. In two early mid-trimester cases the fetus died during the treatment and plasma oestriol dropped significantly, while the level of the other hormones remained raised until fetal delivery. In these two cases the apparent onset of labour was noted before fetal death. It was concluded that the onset and progress of labour by mechanical stretching of the uterus is probably unrelated to the steroid hormones estimated in the present study.

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Y Taniguchi, I Morita, T Kubota, S Murota, and T Aso

It has been recognized that tissue-specific growth factors and angiogenic factors play important roles in the growth of tumors and in the tissue-repair system. In uterine myometrial smooth muscle cells, it has also been reported that the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) binds to PDGF receptors and stimulates proliferation. In this paper, we examine whether or not PDGF is able to stimulate production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in cultured human myometrial smooth muscle cells. PDGF treatment enhanced immunoreactive VEGF production as well as cell proliferation. Production of VEGF121 and VEGF165 in the cells was detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis, but the PDGF treatment did not change the ratio of VEGF165 to VEGF121. The effect of PDGF on cell proliferation leveled off at 10 ng/ml, whereas its effect on VEGF production continued to increase linearly at concentrations above 10 ng/ml. Upon treatment of the cells with antibody against VEGF, the cell proliferation increased linearly even at PDGF concentrations above 10 ng/ml. The enhanced [3H]thymidine incorporation by PDGF was abolished by either mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK) inhibitor or protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor. In contrast, VEGF production was abolished by MAPKK inhibitor, but not by PKC inhibitor. These results indicate that PDGF stimulates both cell proliferation and VEGF production in partly different signal pathways, and thus PDGF might play a role in the physiology and pathology of the myometrium.

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T. Kubota, S. Kamada, M. Taguchi, S. Sakamoto, and T. Aso


The present study was undertaken to investigate the effects of protein kinase C (PKC) activation and calcium mobilization on the release of prolactin from human decidual cells in early pregnancy. Decidua obtained from patients in early pregnancy was enzymatically dispersed and cultured with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) and calcium ionophore A23187 in a cell culture system. Prolactin in the medium was measured by enzyme-immunoassay.

PMA, a PKC activator, dose-dependently attenuated the release of prolactin from cultured decidual cells, while a PKC inhibitor, H7, significantly (P < 0·001) diminished the effect of PMA on prolactin release. PMA had no effect on cell numbers or DNA synthesis in the decidual cells during culture. It did not significantly increase the generation of inositol phosphate in decidual cells prelabelled with myo[3H]inositol and it had no effect on intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2 + ]i). Calcium ionophore A23187, a Ca2 +-mobilizing agent, also significantly (P<0·001) attenuated the release of prolactin and potentiated the PMA-induced suppression of prolactin release from decidual cells.

These findings suggest that activation of PKC and mobilization of Ca2+ may be involved in regulating prolactin release from human decidual cells. The PMA-induced suppression of prolactin release is not triggered by phosphoinositide hydrolysis nor by the increase in [Ca2 + ]i in decidual cells.

Journal of Endocrinology (1993) 137, 335–340

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S. Kamada, T. Kubota, Y. Hirata, M. Taguchi, S. Eguchi, F. Marumo, and T. Aso


Specific binding sites for endothelin-1 (ET-1), a novel potent vasoconstrictor peptide, as well as the effects of ET-1 on cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), intracellular total inositol phosphate (IP) generation and steroidogenesis were studied in cultured porcine granulosa cells. Scatchard analysis of a binding study using 125I-labelled ET-1 indicated the presence of a single class of high-affinity binding sites with almost equal affinity for ET-1 and ET-3: the apparent dissociation constant was 0·59 nmol/l and the maximal binding capacity was 1·84 pmol/mg protein. Affinitylabelling of 125I-labelled ET-1 to the membranes using disuccinimidyl tartarate as a cross-linker revealed one major and one minor band with the apparent molecular weights of 32 kDa and 49 kDa respectively. ET-1 dose-dependently (1−100 nmol/l) induced rapid and transient increases in [Ca2+]i in fura-2-labelled cells. ET-1 also dose-dependently stimulated total IPs in cells prelabelled with myo-[3H]inositol. ET-1 had a slight stimulatory effect on the secretion of progesterone but not of oestradiol from porcine granulosa cells. The present data clearly demonstrate the presence of a non-selective ET receptor (ETB) in porcine granulosa cells coupled with phosphoinositide hydrolysis and [Ca2+]i mobilization, and suggest that ET-1 may play some role in the production of progesterone by porcine granulosa cells.

Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 134, 59–66

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T Takahashi, K Sato, S Kato, T Yonezawa, Y Kobayashi, Y Ohtani, S Ohwada, H Aso, T Yamaguchi, S G Roh, and K Katoh

Ghrelin is a multifunctional peptide that promotes an increase of food intake and stimulates GH secretion. Ghrelin secretion is regulated by nutritional status and nutrients. Although a high-protein (HP) diet increases plasma ghrelin secretion in mammals, the mechanisms and the roles of the elevated ghrelin concentrations due to a HP diet have not been fully established. To clarify the roles of elevated acylated ghrelin upon intake of a HP diet, we investigated the regulation of ghrelin concentrations in plasma and tissues in wethers fed with either the HP diet or the control (CNT) diet for 14 days, and examined the action of the elevated plasma ghrelin by using a ghrelin-receptor antagonist. The HP diet gradually increased the plasma acylated-ghrelin concentrations, but the CNT diet did not. Although the GH concentrations did not vary significantly across the groups, an injection of ghrelin-receptor antagonist enhanced insulin levels in circulation in the HP diet group. In the fundus region of the stomach, the ghrelin levels did not differ between the HP and CNT diet groups, whereas ghrelin O-acyltransferase mRNA levels were higher in the group fed with HP diet than those of the CNT diet group were. These results indicate that the HP diet elevated the plasma ghrelin levels by increasing its synthesis; this elevation strongly suppresses the appearance of insulin in the circulation of wethers, but it is not involved in GH secretion. Overall, our findings indicate a role of endogenous ghrelin action in secretion of insulin, which acts as a regulator after the consumption of a HP diet.