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KM Ohleth, Q Zhang, and CA Bagnell

Relaxin production by the ovarian follicle of gonadotropin-primed, prepubertal gilts is well documented. As far as we are aware, a source of relaxin in pig follicles, independent of gonadotropins, has not yet been reported. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine whether relaxin is produced in porcine follicles in the absence of exogenous or cyclic gonadotropins. In immature pigs, immunoreactive relaxin was detected in fluids from small (1-3 mm), medium (4-5 mm) and large (>6 mm) follicles and localized to the theca interna of large follicles. Relaxin levels in follicular fluid significantly increased with follicle size (P<0.05). Relaxin mRNA was detected in whole small- and medium-sized follicles. In large follicles, the relaxin gene was expressed in thecal layers, but not granulosa cells. The abundance of relaxin transcript did not change with follicle size. In summary, relaxin protein and mRNA were detected in porcine follicles from immature animals, indicating that relaxin is produced in the porcine follicle in the absence of exogenous or cyclic gonadotropins. Relaxin's in vitro growth effects on porcine granulosa and theca cells support this follicular relaxin as a growth modulator during porcine follicular development.

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Q Wu, XF Lin, XF Ye, B Zhang, Z Xie, and WJ Su

Retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARalpha) plays an important role in mediating all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) signals. In this study, we found that ATRA up-regulated RARalpha mRNA and protein expression in gastric cancer BGC-823 cells. However, in breast cancer MCF-7 cells it down-regulated RARalpha protein expression with no effect on its RARalpha mRNA. Immunoprecipitation/Western blot analysis showed that, although sumoylated and ubiquitinated RARalpha existed simultaneously in both cancer cell lines, ATRA exerted different regulatory effects on sumoylation and ubiquitination of RARalpha. In MCF-7 cells, ATRA treatment enhanced the ubiquitination of RARalpha and the subsequent degradation of RARalpha through the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway. This resulted in a reduction in the DNA binding activity of RARalpha/retinoid X receptor alpha (RXRalpha) heterodimer, the separation of RXRalpha from RARalpha and the translocation of RXRalpha from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. By contrast, in BGC-823 cells, ATRA augmented sumoylation, not ubiquitination, of RARalpha. The stability of sumoylated RARalpha was significantly stronger than in non-sumoylated RARalpha. These results also showed an increase in the DNA binding activity of the RARalpha/RXRalpha heterodimer and the stability of nuclear localization of this heterodimer, which normally facilitates the ATRA signal transduction. In conclusion, our results reveal a novel mechanism for the regulation of RARalpha-dependent signal transduction through the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway in breast cancer cells and the sumoylation pathway in gastric cancer cells.

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M Zhang, Y Tao, B Zhou, H Xie, F Wang, L Lei, L Huo, Q Sun, and G Xia

Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) as well as its receptors is found in mammalian ovary and follicular cells and its function in oocyte meiotic maturation has also been reported in Xenopus, hamster and rat. But the results are controversial and the physiological mechanism of ANP on oocyte maturation is not clear, especially the relationship between gonadotrophin and ANP as well as the signal transduction, and these need further study. The present study conducted experiments to examine these questions by using drug treatment and Western blot analysis and focused on pig oocyte meiotic maturation and cumulus expansion in vitro. The results revealed that ANP could inhibited FSH-induced pig oocyte maturation and cumulus expansion and prevent the full phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in both oocytes and cumulus cells, and that these inhibitory effects could be mimicked by 8-Br-cyclic guanosine 5′-monophosphate (8-Br-cGMP), but blocked by a protein kinase G (PKG) inhibitor KT5823. Zaprinast, a cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitor, could enhance the inhibitory effect of ANP on oocyte maturation. A specific analogue of ANP, C-ANP-(4–23), which binds to the natriuretic peptide receptor-C (NPRC), had no effect in either FSH-induced or spontaneous oocyte maturation. Treatment with forskolin, a stimulator of adenylate cyclase, had a biphasic effect; 44 h treatment induced cumulus expansion but inhibited oocyte maturation while 2 h treatment induced maturation of cumulus-enclosed oocytes (CEOs). Both ANP and C-ANP-(4–23) could inhibit the effect of forskolin on CEO maturation, and these inhibitory effects of ANP/C-ANP-(4–23) could be blocked by preincubation with pertussis toxin (PT), consistent with mediation by a Gi protein(s) in the cumulus cells. All these results suggest that ANP is a multifunctional regulator of FSH and forskolin on pig CEO maturation by two signalling mechanisms: one is via a cGMP/PKG pathway, the other is via NPRC receptors in cumulus cells and the activation of the PT-sensitive Gi protein(s).

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C A Bagnell, Q Zhang, K Ohleth, M L Connor, B R Downey, B K Tsang, and L Ainsworth


Northern analysis and in-situ hybridization were used to follow the development of relaxin gene expression in the newly forming corpus luteum (CL) after ovulation and throughout luteal development. Alkaline phosphatase (AP) was used as a marker of theca-derived lutein cells and the relationship between AP-positive and relaxin mRNA-containing cells was assessed. Ovaries from prepubertal pigs treated with pregnant mares serum gonadotrophin (PMSG)/human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) were collected during the periovulatory period and at various times during 19 days after ovulation. In addition, CL from cyclic pigs on days 10 and 16 were used to monitor relaxin gene expression in small and large luteal cells. Northern analysis revealed that relaxin gene expression increased with CL development in the PMSG/hCG-treated pig, reaching maximal levels at around day 14 post-ovulation. Thereafter, as the CL regressed, the level of relaxin mRNA declined. In CL from cyclic pigs at day 10 of the cycle, only small luteal cells expressed relaxin mRNA. However, by day 16 of the cycle, large luteal cells were the source of relaxin gene expression. In-situ hybridization studies revealed that in the early CL (up to 30 h post-ovulation), the relaxin gene transcript was observed in cells along the margins of the CL and in the core of the infolding follicle wall corresponding to the AP-positive, luteinized theca cell layer. As luteinization progressed, the theca and granulosa cell layers could no longer be distinguished morphologically (from 54 h after ovulation until day 9). However, the pattern of relaxin hybridization persisted along the periphery in bands of cells penetrating the CL, and coincided with areas of AP staining, indicating that the theca lutein cells were the site of relaxin gene expression. At day 14, relaxin hybridization and AP staining were distributed throughout the luteal tissue. With CL regression both AP staining and relaxin hybridization declined. This pattern of relaxin hybridization in the CL of the gonadotrophin-primed pig was identical to that observed in cyclic pigs on days 10 and 16 of the cycle. These findings indicate that theca interna cells retain their ability to express the relaxin gene following ovulation and luteinization. In the early CL, the small theca-derived lutein cells are the source of relaxin transcript. However, as the CL becomes fully differentiated, the large granulosa-derived lutein cells acquire the capacity to express the relaxin message.