Open Access Research

FSH regulates acetycholine production by ovarian granulosa cells

Artur Mayerhofer1*, Lars Kunz1, Annette Krieger1, Becky Proskocil2, Eliot Spindel2, Abraham Amsterdam3, Gregory A Dissen2, Sergio R Ojeda2 and Ignaz Wessler4

Author Affiliations

1 Anatomisches Institut der Universität München, Deutschland

2 Division of Neurosciences, ONPRC-OHSU, Beaverton, OR, USA

3 Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Rehovot, Israel

4 Phamakologisches Institut der Universität Mainz, Deutschland

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2006, 4:37  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-4-37

Published: 17 July 2006

Abstract

Background

It has been previously shown that cultured granulosa cells (GCs) derived from human ovarian preovulatory follicles contain choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the enzyme responsible for acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis. They also produce ACh and express functional muscarinic ACh receptors. ACh can act on GCs to increase proliferation, disrupt gap junctional communication, alter intracellular calcium levels, as well as expression of transcription factors, suggesting an unrecognized role of ACh in GC function. To gain further insights into the possible role of ACh in the ovary, we examined ChAT expression in the gland before and after birth, as well as in adults, and studied the regulation of ACh production by FSH.

Methods

ChAT immunohistochemistry was performed using ovarian samples of different species and ages (embryonic, postnatal and adult rats and mice, including embryonic ovaries from mice null for ChAT, neonatal and adult rhesus monkeys and adult humans). ACh was measured by HPLC and/or a fluorescence based method in rat ovaries and in a FSH receptor-expressing cell line (rat GFSHR-17) cultured with or without FSH.

Results

In adult rat, as well as in all other species, ovarian ChAT immunoreactivity is associated with GCs of antral follicles, but not with other structures, indicating that GCs are the only ovarian source of ACh. Indeed ACh was clearly detected in adult rat ovaries by two methods. ChAT immunoreactivity is absent from embryonic and/or neonatal ovaries (mouse/rat and monkey) and ovarian development in embryonic mice null for ChAT appears normal, suggesting that ACh is not involved in ovarian or follicular formation. Since ChAT immunoreactivity is present in GCs of large follicles and since the degree of the ChAT immunoreactivity increases as antral follicles grow, we tested whether ACh production is stimulated by FSH. Rat GFSHR-17 cells that stably express the FSH receptor, respond to FSH with an increase in ACh production.

Conclusion

ACh and ChAT are present in GCs of growing follicles and FSH, the major driving force of follicular growth, stimulates ACh production. Since ACh stimulates proliferation and differentiation processes in cultured GCs, we suggest that ACh may act in the growing ovarian follicle as a local mediator of some of the actions ascribed to FSH.