Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) -4, -6, and -7 potently suppress basal and luteinizing hormone-induced androgen production by bovine theca interna cells in primary culture: could ovarian hyperandrogenic dysfunction be caused by a defect in thecal BMP signaling?

Claire Glister, Stephenie L Richards, Philip G Knight
Endocrinology 2005, 146 (4): 1883-92
We reported recently that bovine theca interna cells in primary culture express several type-I and type-II receptors for bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). The same cells express at least two potential ligands for these receptors (BMP-4 and -7), whereas bovine granulosa cells and oocytes express BMP-6. Therefore, BMPs of intrafollicular origin may exert autocrine/paracrine actions to modulate theca cell function. Here we report that BMP-4, -6, and -7 potently suppress both basal (P < 0.0001; respective IC(50) values, 0.78, 0.30, and 1.50 ng/ml) and LH-induced (P < 0.0001; respective IC(50) values, 5.00, 0.55, and 4.55 ng/ml) androgen production by bovine theca cells while having only a moderate effect on progesterone production and cell number. Semiquantitative RT-PCR showed that all three BMPs markedly reduced steady-state levels of mRNA for P450c17. Levels of mRNA encoding steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, P450scc, and 3beta-hydroxy- steroid dehydrogenase were also reduced but to a much lesser extent. Immunocytochemistry confirmed a marked reduction in cellular content of P450c17 protein after BMP treatment (P < 0.001). Exposure to BMPs led to cellular accumulation of phosphorylated Smad1, but not Smad2, confirming that the receptors signal via a Smad1 pathway. The specificity of the BMP response was further explored by coincubating cells with BMPs and several potential BMP antagonists, chordin, gremlin, and follistatin. Gremlin and chordin were found to be effective antagonists of BMP-4 and -7, respectively, and the observation that both antagonists enhanced (P < 0.01) androgen production in the absence of exogenous BMP suggests an autocrine/paracrine role for theca-derived BMP-4 and -7 in modulating androgen production. Collectively, these data indicate that an intrafollicular BMP signaling pathway contributes to the negative regulation of thecal androgen production and that ovarian hyperandrogenic dysfunction could be a result of a defective autoregulatory pathway involving thecal BMP signaling.

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