Estrogens play a central role in regulating female reproduction throughout the reproductive axis, and the pituitary is one of the major targets of estrogen action. We hypothesized that estrogen receptor α (ERα) mediates estrogen action in the pituitary gonadotroph. To test this hypothesis, we generated a mouse line with a selective ERα deletion in the gonadotropin α-subunit (αGSU)-expressing pituitary cells (pituitary-specific ERα knockout; ERαflox/flox αGSUcre). Although the ERαflox/flox αGSUcre female mice maintain a basal level of serum LH and FSH and their ovulatory capacity is comparable to that in controls, they do not display regular estrous cycles and are infertile, indicating a potential disorder in regulating LH and/or FSH secretion. The ERαflox/flox αGSUcre female mice express equivalent levels of LHβ and αGSU mRNA compared with wild-type mice as determined by microarray analysis. Taken together, these findings indicate that pituitary gonadotroph ERα carries out the effects of estrogens with regard to estrous cyclicity and ultimately fertility.
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