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H Khan, LG Jiang, GN Jayashree, TA Yarney, and MR Sairam

To assess the functional significance of putative proteins encoded by alternately spliced mRNA of the sheep testicular FSH receptor, a short form cDNA comprising of the first four exons (117 residues mature protein) was engineered for expression in Escherichia coli. The expressed protein of molecular mass 15 kDa was purified to homogeneity and verified by reaction with an antibody against a synthetic peptide sequence unique to the amino (N)-terminal region FSH receptor. The purified FSH receptor domain protein bound 125I-labeled hFSH in a ligand blot on polyvinylidine difluoride membranes. Further analyses by slot blot revealed high affinity of the immobilized protein with significant reaction at 10 pmol. As the immobilized receptor protein also reacted with structurally related hormones (125I-labeled LH/125I-labeled human chorionic gonadotropin), we confirmed that interaction most probably occurred via the common alpha-subunit of these glycoprotein hormones. Our results reveal that this N-terminal portion of the FSH receptor contain(s) major site(s) for hormone recognition that could be mediated via the alpha-subunit. A rabbit antibody to the receptor inhibited FSH action in receptor bearing cells, revealing the utility of such recombinant FSH receptor protein(s) for modulation of hormone action.

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T A Yarney, M H Fahmy, M R Sairam, H Khan, and E A Macdonald


The role of alternative splicing of the FSH receptor gene in the generation of FSH receptor proteins and testicular function remains an enigma. To address this issue, this investigation was conducted to determine variations in the expression of alternate FSH receptor mRNA transcripts in relation to changes in FSH release, hormone binding activity and testicular function during pubertal development of ram lambs from two genotypes of sheep (Romanov and a cross between Booroola × DLS) with different sexual precocity. Serum 17β-estradiol and testosterone concentrations were used as indices of Sertoli cell and testicular function. The results indicated that increases in Sertoli cell and testicular function normally seen during pubertal development are accompanied by age-dependent reductions in concentration of functional FSH receptors, as determined by binding of iodinated FSH to testicular membrane preparations. During the course of these changes, FSH release was either maintained at a steady level in Romanov lambs or it was gradually reduced in the Booroola × DLS cross, thus indicating that the testis had become more responsive to hormonal signal. This acquisition of heightened sensitivity was also associated with contrasting changes in the level of expression of FSH receptor mRNA transcripts. For both genotypes of sheep, 5 distinct species of mRNA transcripts of approximately 1·1, 1·5, 2·0, 2·5 and 6·5 kb were highly expressed from 11 to 22 weeks of age. Amongst these transcripts, the 1·1 kb molecular species was the most abundant. Specific probing for a previously cloned transcript called 151A1 representing the first 4 exons of the FSH receptor gene revealed a paradoxical increase in the level of expression from 11 weeks up to a maximum at 18-22 weeks of age for both genotypes. Collectively, the results indicated that contrasting changes in the production of specific alternatively spliced mRNA transcripts may mediate changes in FSH receptor expression which apparently accounts for the augmentation in sensitivity and function of the testis during pubertal development. Furthermore, the data provide the first important indication that the novel truncated transcript (151A1), which predictably encodes a soluble protein of either intra- or extracellular fate, could be physiologically relevant.