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Endocrinology. 2005 Jan;146(1):77-84. Epub 2004 Sep 30.

Epidermal growth factor family members: endogenous mediators of the ovulatory response.

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  • 1The Bernhard Zondek Hormone Research Laboratory, Department of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Previous studies showed that epidermal growth factor (EGF) and TGFalpha mimic the action of LH on the resumption of oocyte maturation. We tested whether EGF-like agents, such as amphiregulin (AR), epiregulin (ER), and betacellulin (BTC), also mediate the LH stimulation of the ovulatory response in the rat. LH induced transient follicular expression of AR, ER, and BTC mRNA, reaching a maximum after 3-h incubation. Furthermore, the addition of ER, AR, and BTC to the culture medium could mimic some of LH actions. AR and ER fully simulated LH-induced resumption of meiosis in vitro, whereas BTC was less effective. To study the putative involvement of EGF-like factors in mediation of LH signal, the effect of the EGF receptor kinase inhibitor AG1478 was tested. When added with LH, AG1478, but not its inactive analog AG43, reduced EGF receptor phosphorylation and oocyte maturation compared with follicles treated with LH only. In addition to the inhibition of resumption of meiosis, AG1478 administration into the bursa (3 microg/bursa) resulted in 51% (P < 0.0005) inhibition of ovulation in the treated ovaries, compared with the untreated contralateral ones, as well as to the vehicle-treated ovaries (P < 0.02). LH, as well as ER, induced the expression of genes associated with the ovulatory response like rat hyaluronan synthase-2, cyclooxygenase-2, and TNFalpha-stimulated gene 6 mRNA, whereas AG1478 inhibited this effect of LH. Release of EGF-like factors from the membrane is dependent on activated metalloproteases. Indeed, Galardin, a broad-spectrum metalloprotease inhibitor, but not a specific matrix metalloprotease 2 and 9 inhibitor, suppressed meiotic maturation induced by LH. Conversely, meiotic maturation induced by ER was not affected by Galardin, thus, supporting the notion that LH releases follicular membrane-bound EGF-like agents. In summary, EGF-like factors such as ER, AR, and BTC seem to mediate, at least partially, the LH stimulation of oocyte maturation, ovulatory enzyme expression, and ovulation.

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