Gonadotropin Stimulation of Ovarian Fractalkine Expression and Fractalkine Augmentation of Progesterone Biosynthesis by Luteinizing Granulosa Cells

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Recent studies indicated that ovarian functions are regulated by diverse paracrine factors induced by the preovulatory increases in circulating LH. Based on DNA microarray analyses and real-time RT-PCR, we found a major increase in the transcript levels of a chemokine fractalkine after human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) treatment during the preovulatory period in gonadotropin-primed immature mice and rats. Although CX3CR1, the seven-transmembrane receptor for fractalkine, was also found in murine ovaries, its transcripts displayed minimal changes. Using tandem RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry, fractalkine transcripts and proteins were localized in cumulus, mural granulosa, and theca cells as well as the oocytes, whereas CX3CR1 was found in the same cells except the oocyte. Real-time RT-PCR further indicated the hCG induction of fractalkine transcripts in different ovarian compartments, with the highest increases found in granulosa cells. In cultured granulosa cells, treatment with fractalkine augmented hCG stimulation of progesterone but not estradiol and cAMP biosynthesis with concomitant increases in transcript levels for key steroidogenic enzymes (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, CYP11A, and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase). In cultured preovulatory follicles, treatment with fractalkine also augmented progesterone production stimulated by hCG. Furthermore, treatment with fractalkine augmented the phosphorylation of P38 MAPK in cultured granulosa cells. The present data demonstrated that increases in preovulatory LH/hCG induce the expression of fractalkine to augment the luteinization of preovulatory granulosa cells and suggest the fractalkine/CX3CR1 signaling system plays a potential paracrine/autocrine role in preovulatory follicles.

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