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J Ovarian Res. 2015 Mar 7;8:8. doi: 10.1186/s13048-015-0136-4.

Expression of the beta-2 adrenergic receptor (ADRB-2) in human and monkey ovarian follicles: a marker of growing follicles?



ADRB-2 was implicated in rodent ovarian functions, including initial follicular growth. In contrast, ADRB-2 expression and function in nonhuman primate and human ovary were not fully known but innervation and significant levels of norepinephrine (NE), which is a ligand at the ADRB-2, were reported in the ovary.


We studied expression of ADRB-2 in human and rhesus monkey ovary (RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry; laser micro dissection) and measured levels of norepinephrine (NE; ELISA) in monkey follicular fluid (FF). 3D cultures of monkey follicles (4 animals) were exposed to NE or the ADRB-2 agonist isoproterenol (ISO), and follicular development (size) was monitored. Upon termination expression of ADRB-2, FSH receptor and aromatase genes were examined.


Immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR of either human follicular granulosa cells (GCs) obtained by laser micro dissection or isolated monkey follicles revealed ADRB-2 in GCs of primordial, primary, secondary and tertiary follicles. Staining of GCs in primordial and primary follicles was intense. In large preantral and antral follicles the staining was heterogeneous, with positive and negative GCs present but GCs lining the antrum of large follicles were generally strongly immunopositive. Theca, interstitial, and ovarian surface epithelial cells were also positive. NE was detected in FF of preovulatory antral monkey follicles (0.37 + 0.05 ng/ml; n = 7; ELISA) but not in serum. We examined preantral follicles ranging from 152 to 366 μm in diameter in a 3D culture in media supplemented with follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Under these conditions, neither NE, nor ISO, influenced growth rate in a period lasting up to one month. Upon termination of the cultures, all surviving follicles expressed aromatase and FSH receptors, but only about half of them also co-expressed ADRB-2. The ADRB-2 expression was not correlated with the treatment but was positively correlated with the follicular size at the beginning and at the end of the culture period. Hence, expression of ADRB-2 was found in the largest and fastest-in vitro growing follicles.


The results imply ADRB-2-mediated actions in the development of primate follicles. Drugs interfering with ADRB-2 are used to treat medical conditions and may have unexplored effects in the human ovary.

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