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1 April 2009 Functional AR Signaling Is Evident in an In Vitro Mouse Follicle Culture Bioassay That Encompasses Most Stages of Folliculogenesis
Sandy Lenie, Johan Smitz
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Androgens have distinct physiological functions within the ovary. The biological action of androgens is primarily exerted through transcriptional regulation by the nuclear androgen receptor (AR), but the molecular cascades governed by AR remain largely unknown. At present, there is imminent concern that environmental man-made chemicals with antiandrogenic properties, among others, are capable of modulating hormonal responses, thereby interfering with normal physiological processes that are critical to fertility. In the present study, we aimed to further characterize a standardized and reproducible follicle culture system in terms of AR expression during in vitro folliculogenesis to be able to use it as a bioassay to study effects of antiandrogens on follicular and oocyte growth, steroid secretion profile, and oocyte meiotic maturation capacity. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that cytoplasmic AR protein was translocated to the nucleus of granulosa and theca cells in response to endogenous androgen production in theca cells during preantral follicular development. During the antral phase in vitro, AR was differentially expressed in mural and cumulus cells, implying an oocyte-mediated regulation. Treatment of follicles with hydroxyflutamide or bicalutamide, two model antiandrogenic compounds, resulted in reduced follicular growth during the preantral phase, altered steroidogenic environment, and arrest in oocyte meiotic maturation in response to human chorionic gonadotropin. Androgen receptor expression in the culture model corresponded well to what is described in vivo, and this system revealed several ovarian functions targeted by AR antagonists that can be further investigated using more in-depth molecular techniques.

Sandy Lenie and Johan Smitz "Functional AR Signaling Is Evident in an In Vitro Mouse Follicle Culture Bioassay That Encompasses Most Stages of Folliculogenesis," Biology of Reproduction 80(4), 685-695, (1 April 2009).
Received: 9 January 2008; Accepted: 1 December 2008; Published: 1 April 2009
androgen receptor
confocal microscopy
follicle culture
follicular development
nuclear translocation
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