Female ESR2-null mice (betaERKO) display defects in ovarian function and are subfertile. Follicular maturation is impaired and explains smaller litters, but betaERKO also produce fewer litters, which may be partially due to inadequate ovulatory signals. To test this, the amplitude and timing of the naturally occurring luteinizing hormone (LH) surge was measured in individual intact betaERKO and wild-type (WT) mice. Vaginal cytology was evaluated daily, and blood samples were taken from mice in proestrus. The amplitude of the LH surge was severely blunted in betaERKO mice compared to WT, but pituitary LH levels revealed no differences. The betaERKO mice did not produce a preovulatory estradiol surge. To determine if the smaller LH surges and the reduced number of litters in betaERKO were due to the lack of ESR2 in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis or due to the absence of ESR2 in the ovary, ovaries were transplanted from WT into betaERKO mice and vice versa. The size of the LH surge was reduced only in mice lacking ESR2 within the ovary, and these mice had fewer litters. Fertility and size of the LH surge were rescued in betaERKO mice receiving a WT ovary. These data provide the first experimental evidence that the LH surge is impaired in betaERKO females and may contribute to their reduced fertility. ESR2 is not necessary within the pituitary and hypothalamus for the generation of a normal LH surge and for normal fertility, but ESR2 is essential within the ovary to provide proper signals.
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Vol. 90 • No. 2