Gene expression of luteinizing hormone receptor and steroidogenic enzymes during Leydig cell development

T O Abney, J Zhai
Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 1998, 20 (1): 119-27
Testicular Leydig cells (LC) are rapidly and selectively destroyed by an injection of ethane dimethane sulfonate (EDS). LC regeneration occurs in the testis of the EDS-treated rats from the differentiation of the precursor Leydig cells (PLC). This study was designed to investigate the patterns of change in the mRNAs for the luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) and the steroidogenic enzymes, cholesterol side chain cleavage (P-450scc) and 17 alpha-hydroxylase (P-450(17 alpha)) during LC regeneration from PLCs. Mature (60 days of age) Sprague-Dawley male rats received a single intraperitoneal injection of EDS and were killed at different times between days 2 and 60 post-treatment. PLC- and LC-enriched fractions were isolated from the testes of the EDS-treated rats and age-matched control rats using a collagenase digestion-Percoll gradient method. Total RNA was extracted from these cell populations and subjected to Northern blot analysis. The LC fraction isolated from testes of control rats expressed four major transcripts of the LHR, sized 1.8, 2.5, 4.2 and 7.0 kb. The undifferentiated PLC fraction from controls expressed only a truncated form, the 1.8 kb transcript. This truncated LHR transcript was also the only LHR mRNA species detected in PLCs at day 2 post-EDS treatment. In contrast, all four transcripts of the LHR were detected in the PLC fraction at day 10 post-EDS treatment. The levels of the full length 7.0 kb transcript increased thereafter and reached a peak between days 24 and 36 post-EDS treatment in the PLC fraction. Concomitant with the increase in the 7.0 kb transcript, the truncated 1.8 kb transcript decreased in amount and reached a nadir between days 16 and 36 post-treatment. The changes observed in this cell fraction reflect the process of differentiation of PLCs into LCs. At day 45 post-EDS treatment, the level of the 7.0 kb transcript decreased while the 1.8 kb form increased in the PLC fraction, reflecting the completion of LC regeneration from this cell fraction. By day 60 post-EDS treatment, the levels of the 1.8 kb transcript rose to the value observed in undifferentiated control PLCs and the other transcripts were no longer detected in the PLC fraction, indicating that cells in the PLC fraction were again in an undifferentiated stage. Messenger RNAs for both the steroidogenic enzymes, P-450scc and P-450(17 alpha) were expressed in the control LC fraction. Neither of these two mRNAs were detected in the PLC fraction of the control rats. P-450scc and P-450(17 alpha) mRNAs were first expressed in the PLC fraction at day 10 post-EDS treatment. Thereafter, the levels of P-450scc and P-450(17 alpha) mRNAs increased in the PLC fraction and reached a peak between days 24 and 36 and days 24 and 45 post-EDS treatment respectively. P-450scc and P-450(17 alpha) mRNAs were no longer expressed in the PLC fraction at day 60 post-EDS treatment. These patterns also reflect the process of differentiation of PLCs into functional LCs. These results demonstrate for the first time that PLCs in the control testis are undifferentiated and do not express functional LHR and steroidogenic enzymes or their mRNAs. The PLCs are characterized, however, by the expression of a truncated 1.8 kb transcript of the LHR mRNA. Functional LHR and steroidogenic enzymes are expressed in PLCs only during their differentiation into LCs after EDS treatment. Subsequent to LC regeneration, the PLCs return to an undifferentiated stage.

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