It is well known that the pituitary gonadotropin surge induces progesterone receptor (PR) gene expression in luteinizing granulosa cells and that PR activation is critical for successful ovulation. To further understand the molecular mechanism(s) by which PR plays a role critical for granulosa cell functions, we wanted to identify progesterone-induced genes in granulosa cells. We employed a PCR-based subtraction cloning strategy to screen for genes expressed differentially in granulosa cells that were challenged with forskolin in the presence of progesterone or ZK98299. One such differentially expressed clone was identified as the pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP). To begin to understand the relationship between PR activation and PACAP gene expression in luteinizing granulosa cells, we examined whether PR and PACAP messenger RNA (mRNA) expression is temporally correlated. In cultured granulosa cells, both human CG and forskolin induced PR and PACAP mRNA levels in a dose-dependent manner, as determined by semi-quantitative RT-PCR assays. However, the peak expression for PR and PACAP mRNAs was observed at 3 h and 6 h after hormone treatment, respectively. This time difference in cAMP-responsive expression of the PR and PACAP genes is due, at least in part, to the requirement of ongoing protein synthesis for PACAP expression, as demonstrated by the inhibitory effect of cycloheximide on cAMP-induced PACAP, but not PR, mRNA levels. To determine whether PR synthesis is prerequisite for PACAP expression, we examined the effect of ZK98299, a specific PR antagonist, on cAMP-induced PACAP mRNA expression. This compound blocked cAMP-induced PACAP mRNA expression in a dose-dependent manner, indicating that PR activation is required for PACAP gene expression in granulosa cells. We then compared cellular localization and hormonal regulation of ovarian PR and PACAP gene expression in immature rats treated with gonadotropins as well as in adult rats during the preovulatory period by using in situ hybridization and semiquantitative RT-PCR assays. Results show that both PR and PACAP mRNAS are induced in granulosa cells of preovulatory follicles by human CG, but that the PR gene is expressed before the PACAP gene. Taken together, these results demonstrate that PRs mediate the LH-induced PACAP gene expression in rat granulosa cells.
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