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Xiang Zhou, Ying Wang, Luisina Ongaro, Ulrich Boehm, Vesa Kaartinen, Yuji Mishina and Daniel J Bernard

Pituitary follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) synthesis is regulated by transforming growth factorβsuperfamily ligands, most notably the activins and inhibins. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) also regulate FSHβ subunit (Fshb) expression in immortalized murine gonadotrope-like LβT2 cells and in primary murine or ovine primary pituitary cultures. BMP2 signals preferentially via the BMP type I receptor, BMPR1A, to stimulate murine Fshb transcription in vitro. Here, we used a Cre–lox approach to assess BMPR1A’s role in FSH synthesis in mice in vivo. Gonadotrope-specific Bmpr1a knockout animals developed normally and had reproductive organ weights comparable with those of controls. Knockouts were fertile, with normal serum gonadotropins and pituitary gonadotropin subunit mRNA expression. Cre-mediated recombination of the floxed Bmpr1a allele was efficient and specific, as indicated by PCR analysis of diverse tissues and isolated gonadotrope cells. Furthermore, BMP2 stimulation of inhibitor of DNA binding 3 expression was impaired in gonadotropes isolated from Bmpr1a knockout mice, confirming the loss of functional receptor protein in these cells. Treatment of purified gonadotropes with small-molecule inhibitors of BMPR1A (and the related receptors BMPR1B and ACVR1) suppressed Fshb mRNA expression, suggesting that an autocrine BMP-like molecule might regulate FSH synthesis. However, deletion of Bmpr1a and Acvr1 in cultured pituitary cells did not alter Fshb expression, indicating that the inhibitors had off-target effects. In sum, BMPs or related ligands acting via BMPR1A or ACVR1 are unlikely to play direct physiological roles in FSH synthesis by murine gonadotrope cells.

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Chirine Toufaily, Gauthier Schang, Xiang Zhou, Philipp Wartenberg, Ulrich Boehm, John P Lydon, Ferdinand Roelfsema and Daniel J Bernard

The progesterone receptor (PR, encoded by Pgr) plays essential roles in reproduction. Female mice lacking the PR are infertile, due to the loss of the protein’s functions in the brain, ovary, and uterus. PR is also expressed in pituitary gonadotrope cells, but its specific role therein has not been assessed in vivo. We therefore generated gonadotrope-specific Pgr conditional knockout mice (cKO) using the Cre-LoxP system. Overall, both female and male cKO mice appeared phenotypically normal. cKO females displayed regular estrous cycles (vaginal cytology) and normal fertility (litter size and frequency). Reproductive organ weights were comparable between wild-type and cKO mice of both sexes, as were production and secretion of the gonadotropins, LH and FSH, with one exception. On the afternoon of proestrus, the amplitude of the LH surge was blunted in cKO females relative to controls. Contrary to predictions of earlier models, this did not appear to derive from impaired GnRH self-priming. Collectively, these data indicate that PR function in gonadotropes may be limited to regulation of LH surge amplitude in female mice via a currently unknown mechanism.