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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2008 Jan 30;282(1-2):130-42. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2007.11.027. Epub 2007 Dec 4.

Molecular pathology of the FSH receptor: new insights into FSH physiology.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, Pharmacology and Hormonology, AP-HP, University Paris Sud 11, Le Kremlin BicĂȘtre F-94275, France.


Manipulations of mouse genome have helped to elucidate gonadotrophin function but important differences subsist between rodent and human reproduction. Studies of patients with mutations of gonadotrophins or gonadotrophin receptors genes allow understanding their physiological effects in humans. The correlation of the clinical phenotypes of patients with in vitro studies of the mutated receptor residual function and histological and immunohistological studies of the ovarian biopsies permits to understand which stages of follicular development are under FSH control. Total FSH receptor (FSHR) inactivation causes infertility with an early block of follicular maturation remarkably associated with abundant small follicles as in prepubertal ovaries and demonstrates the absolute requirement of FSH for follicular development starting from the primary stage. Partial FSHR inactivation, characterized by normal-sized ovaries, can sustain follicular development up to the early antral stages but incremental levels of FSH stimulation seem to be required for antral follicular growth before selection. These findings contrast with the traditional view of an initial gonadotrophin-independent follicular growth prior to the preantral-early antral stages. The presence of numerous reserve follicles in the ovaries of these patients may permit a future treatment of their infertility. The study of reduced FSHbeta or FSHR activity in genetically modified male mice models and in men suggests a minor impact of the FSHR on masculine fertility. Further studies on patients with a demonstrated total FSHbeta or FSHR inactivation are required to elucidate reported differences in spermatogenesis impairment. Finally, the studies of mutations of gonadotrophins and their receptors demonstrate differences in gonadotrophin function between genetically modified rodents and humans which suggest prudence in extrapolating observations in rodents to human reproduction. Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can infrequently arise spontaneously during pregnancy, but most often it is an iatrogenic complication of ovarian stimulation treatments with ovulation drugs for in vitro fertilization. The first genetic cause of familial recurrent spontaneous OHSS was identified as a broadening specificity of the FSHR for hCG due to naturally occurring heterozygous mutations located unexpectedly in the transmembrane domain of the FSHR. Broadening specificity of a G protein-coupled receptor is extremely rare. These observations led to the identification of the etiology of this previously unexplained syndrome and permitted to conceive novel models of FSHR activation. Susceptibility to iatrogenic OHSS or its clinical severity may be associated with FSHR polymorphisms with slightly different activities in vivo as suggested by several studies. The study of larger cohorts is needed to evaluate the clinical impact of these observations in the management of patients undergoing IVF protocols.

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