Involvement of ERK1/2 signaling pathway in atrazine action on FSH-stimulated LHR and CYP19A1 expression in rat granulosa cells

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Worldwide used herbicide atrazine is linked to reproductive dysfunction in females. In this study, we investigated the effects and the mechanism of atrazine action in the ovary using a primary culture of immature granulosa cells. In granulosa cells, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) activates both cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and extracellular-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) cascades, with cAMP pathway being more important for luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) and aromatase (CYP19A1) mRNA expression. We report that 48 h after atrazine exposure the FSH-stimulated LHR and CYP19A1 mRNA expression and estradiol synthesis were decreased, with LHR mRNA being more sensitive to atrazine than CYP19A1 mRNA. Inadequate acquisition of LHR in the FSH-stimulated and atrazine-exposed granulosa cells renders human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) ineffective to stimulate amphiregulin (Areg), epiregulin (Ereg), and progesterone receptor (Pgr) mRNA expression, suggesting anti-ovulatory effect of atrazine. To dissect the signaling cascade involved in atrazine action in granulosa cells, we used U0126, a pharmacological inhibitor of ERK1/2. U0126 prevents atrazine-induced decrease in LHR and CYP19A1 mRNA levels and estradiol production in the FSH-stimulated granulosa cells. ERK1/2 inactivation restores the ability of hCG to induce expression of the ovulatory genes in atrazine-exposed granulosa cells. Cell-based ELISA assay revealed that atrazine does not change the FSH-stimulated ERK1/2 phosphorylation in granulosa cells. The results from this study reveal that atrazine does not affect but requires ERK1/2 phosphorylation to cause decrease in the FSH-induced LHR and CYP19A1 mRNA levels and estradiol production in immature granulosa cells, thus compromising ovulation and female fertility.

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