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T Celius and BT Walther

Fish oogenesis represents pleiotropic cytodifferentiative programs including hepatic synthesis of the molecular components for both the eggshell and the oocytic energy deposits. Both hepatic processes are directly controlled by plasma levels of estradiol (E2), and injected E2 induces both biogenetic processes in prepubertal fish of both sexes. This work compares the temporal pattern of E2-induced biosynthesis of zona radiata proteins (zr-proteins) and vitellogenin in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in vivo and in vitro. We monitored the presence of plasma zr-proteins and vitellogenin, using homologous polyclonal antiserum to zr-proteins and a monoclonal antibody to vitellogenin. Zr-proteins were induced by all E2 concentrations (0.001-1.1 mg/kg body weight (bw)) within one week of exposure while vitellogenin was not induced until two weeks post-injection and then only in plasma from fish injected with high E2 concentrations (0.4 mg or 1.1 mg/kg bw). After E2 treatment, hepatocytes isolated from male fish synthesized zr-proteins and vitellogenin in vitro. However, zr-proteins were secreted into the medium two days before vitellogenin, as measured by ELISA. The data indicate a preferential induction of zr-proteins compared with vitellogenin, both with regard to E2 sensitivity and response time to E2 treatment. These findings suggest an obligate sequence in salmon oogenesis. During sexual maturation low E2 levels at first induce only zonagenesis, while increasing levels of E2 subsequently induce both zonagenesis and vitellogenesis. In nature, the interval between zonagenesis and vitellogenesis may, therefore, be considerable. The data suggest new control mechanisms in fish oogenesis.

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T Walther and H Stepan

C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) belongs to the natriuretic peptide family that consists of three structurally related peptides with a 17-amino acid ring linked by a disulfide bond. In contrast to atrial and brain natriuretic peptides that are mainly cardiovascular hormones, CNP acts predominantly in an autocrine/paracrine fashion, is commonly considered to be an endothelial hormone with antimitogenic properties, and is characterized as a regulator of endochondral ossification. Its biological effects are mediated by an intracellular cGMP accumulation via specific membrane-bound guanylyl cyclase B (GC-B) activation. There is growing evidence that this peptide is also involved in various reproductive processes as well as in embryonic and fetal development. In rodents, CNP and its receptor are highly expressed in the uterus and ovaries with specific regulation during the estrous cycle. During pregnancy, CNP mRNA is detectable in mice embryos and shows an organ-specific expression in maternal reproductive tIssues with the highest concentration in the placenta. This could indicate a defined biological function of the CNP/GC-B/cGMP axis in gestation e.g. antagonizing vasoconstrictive peptides like angiotensin II. In humans, besides a postulated fetal de novo synthesis of CNP, both the peptide and its receptor are expressed in the placenta and myometrium with opposite regulation of CNP in pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia or intrauterine growth retardation. Since the maternal plasma levels do not reflect these alterations, one can conclude that this part of the natriuretic peptide system acts locally suggesting that CNP-stimulated cGMP release exhibits organ-specific effects. Importantly, CNP has also become a peptide with a distinct role in male reproductive processes, since endocrine function of the testis and the regulation of penile erection are regulated by the CNP/GC-B axis. This review gives a comprehensive overview of the multiple functions of CNP in reproduction and pregnancy as well as in embryonic and fetal development.

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D. O. Oppen-Berntsen, E. Gram-Jensen, and B. T. Walther


The present study delineates the origin of the three major proteins constituting the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) zona radiata. Intraperitoneal administration of oestradiol-17β induced the appearance in the blood from juvenile fish (both sexes) of proteins immunoreactive to rabbit antisera against zona radiata proteins (zr proteins). These proteins had similar molecular weights to the zr proteins (a, 60 kDa; β, 55 kDa; and γ, 50 kDa). Primary hepatocyte cultures from fish treated with oestradiol-17β incorporated radioactive [35S] methionine into four major proteins with molecular weights of 160, 60, 55 and 50 kDa. Only the latter three proteins were specifically immunoprecipitated with antibodies to zr proteins. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that in such cultures the biosynthetic mole ratios of these secreted proteins (60, 55 and 50 kDa) are close to one. Control cultures from fish that had not been treated with oestradiol-17β failed to produce immunoreactive proteins. The data support the hypothesis that zr proteins are synthesized in a concerted manner in the liver during teleostean oogenesis and transported by the blood for deposition in ovarian follicles.

Journal of Endocrinology (1992) 135, 293–302

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S. J. Hyllner, D. O. Oppen-Berntsen, J. V. Helvik, B. T. Walther, and C. Haux


During growth of the ovarian follicle, the teleost oocyte becomes surrounded by an acellular coat, the vitelline envelope. The nature, origin and number of the vitelline envelope proteins in fish appear to vary with species. In this work, polyclonal antibodies directed against vitelline envelope proteins from rainbow trout, brown trout and turbot were used to show that oestradiol-17β induces the major vitelline envelope proteins in juveniles, both males and females, from different species. The fact that males can synthesize vitelline envelope constituents shows that the origin of these proteins is not confined to the ovary. The vitelline envelope of rainbow trout eggs consists of three major proteins, designated α (60 kDa), β (55 kDa) and γ (50 kDa). The amino acid composition of each of the three proteins indicated that the three proteins are alike and the suggestion that these proteins represent a separate class of structural proteins is sustained.

Journal of Endocrinology (1991) 131, 229–236