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F Gaytan, C Bellido, C Morales and JE Sanchez-Criado

In cyclic rats, apoptosis of luteal cells during structural luteolysis occurs cyclically at the transition from pro-oestrus to oestrus in response to the preovulatory prolactin surge. This finding indicates that cyclic changes in apoptosis during luteolysis are dependent on prolactin surge cyclicity. In this study, the effects of prolactin on structural luteolysis were studied under different experimental conditions in relation to the phase of the oestrous cycle. In rats treated with prolactin at metoestrus and dioestrus, apoptosis did not occur in regressing corpora lutea, whereas in rats treated with prolactin on the morning of pro-oestrus, a 12.3-fold and 3.4-fold increase were observed in the number of apoptotic cells in regressing corpora lutea of the current and previous oestrous cycles, respectively. However, when the preovulatory prolactin surge and hence the subsequent apoptotic burst were blocked, prolactin treatment at the dioestrus phase induced a 13-fold increase in the number of apoptotic cells and significant changes in the volume of the corpus luteum (38% decrease) and the number of steroidogenic cells per corpus luteum (70% decrease). The results of this study indicate that the responsiveness of the regressing corpus luteum to the pro-apoptotic effects of prolactin are dependent on the phase of the oestrous cycle and on the presence or absence of an apoptotic burst in response to the preovulatory prolactin surge on the evening of pro-oestrus. Steroidogenic cells surviving to the apoptotic burst during the transition from pro-oestrus to oestrus became refractory to the lytic effect of prolactin. Furthermore, these cells also responded to the luteotrophic effects of prolactin, reaching full morphological luteinization, as indicated by the rescue of regressing cyclic corpora lutea during pregnancy.

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F. Gaytan, C. Bellido, C. Morales, C. Reymundo, E. Aguilar and N. van Rooijen

Testicular macrophages were selectively eliminated with dichloromethylene diphosphonate-containing liposomes (Cl2MDP-lp) to study the role of these cells in the repopulation of Leydig cells after treatment with ethylene dimethane sulfonate (EDS). Right testes were injected with Cl2MDP-lp to deplete macrophages and left testes were injected with sodium chloride and served as controls. Injection of Cl2MDP-lp produced a 97% reduction in the number of macrophages 10 days after treatment. Twenty-one days after destruction of the existing Leydig cells with EDS, abundant differentiating Leydig cells were present in the left (macrophage-containing) testes. On the contrary, in the right (macrophage-depleted) testes, differentiating Leydig cells were scarce, and was 3% of that found in the control testes. The inhibition of Leydig cell repopulation in macrophage-depleted testes was more evident at 30 days after EDS treatment, when the number of Leydig cells in the right testes was 1% of that found in control testes. The lack of Leydig cell development was also indirectly shown by the lower mass and more atrophic seminiferous epithelium of the right testes, as well as the decreased weight of the ipsilateral epididymis compared with the left testes. These results indicate that testicular macrophages are central to the proliferation and differentiation of new Leydig cells after EDS treatment, and point out the significance of paracrine regulatory mechanisms in rat testes.

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F Gaytan, E Tarradas, C Morales, C Bellido and JE Sanchez-Criado

The ovulatory process in cyclic rats was studied after prostanoid synthesis was blocked using indomethacin. Animals were injected at 12:00 h in pro-oestrus with 1.0 mg indomethacin or vehicle (olive oil) and killed at 18:30 h in pro-oestrus, at 02:00, 09:00 and 19:00 h in oestrus and at 09:00 h in metoestrus. Additional rats injected with 0.5 or 4.0 mg indomethacin were killed at 09:00 h in oestrus. No differences in either morphology or serum LH concentrations were found between vehicle or indomethacin-treated rats at 18:30 h in pro-oestrus. However, from 02:00 h in oestrus onward, the process of follicle rupture was altered considerably in indomethacin-treated rats, irrespective of the dose. Early vascular changes, observed in control rats at the apex of the follicle, were absent in indomethacin-treated rats. In some follicles, disruption of the theca layers, invasion of the perifollicular tissue by granulosa cells and follicular fluid, and release of the oocyte to the ovarian interstitium were observed at 02:00 h in oestrus. A small number of follicles ruptured at the ovarian surface. Furthermore, invasion of interstitial tissue, rupture of blood vessel walls, production of emboli of granulosa cells and follicular fluid, and inflammatory reactions were observed in oestrus and metoestrus. The results of the present study demonstrate uncontrolled proteolytic activity, and indicate that abnormal follicle rupture (but not inhibition of follicle rupture) is responsible for ovulation failure in indomethacin-treated rats.

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M Gaytán, C Bellido, C Morales, J E Sánchez-Criado and F Gaytán

Treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, either non-selective or selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors, consistently impairs ovulation, indicating the essential role of COX-2/prostaglandins in the ovulatory process. Indomethacin, a potent inhibitor of both COX-1 and COX-2, induced several ovulatory alterations, consisting of a decrease in the number of oocytes effectively ovulated, trapping of oocytes inside the luteinized follicle, as well as abnormal follicle rupture at the basolateral sides, with release of the oocyte and follicular fluid to the interstitium. Yet, the precise role of prostaglandins in ovulation and whether some of the ovulatory defects induced by indomethacin are due to interference with additional components of the ovulatory cascade, beyond prostaglandin synthesis, are not completely understood. We have used gonadotrophin-primed immature rats to analyse whether, compared to indomethacin, selective inhibition of COX-2, with or without concomitant inhibition of COX-1, or selective inhibition of the lipooxygenase (LOX) pathway, induce similar ovulatory alterations. Immature rats (27 days of age) were injected PMSG (10 IU), and 48 h later hCG (10 IU) subcutaneously, and different anti-inflammatory drugs. Animals were killed at 21 h after hCG injection. Rats treated with the selective COX-2 inhibitor NS398 (10 mg/kg body weight, (bw)) showed alterations in follicle rupture as those treated with indomethacin (0.5 mg/rat), albeit affecting a lower number of follicles, irrespective of the concomitant inhibition of COX-1 with the selective inhibitor SC560 (10 mg/kg bw). Rats treated with the LOX inhibitor NDGA (300 mg/kg bw) did not show ovulatory alterations. These data indicate that the characteristic alterations of follicle rupture induced by indomethacin, are also induced by selective COX-2 inhibitors, strengthening the contention that prostaglandins play a crucial role in the spatial targeting of follicle rupture at the apex.

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F. Gaytán, C. Bellido, C. Morales, E. Aguilar and J. E. Sánchez-Criado

Adult cyclic rats were studied from 16:00 h on pro-oestrus to 07:00 h on oestrus to relate the cyclic hormonal changes to the proliferative activity and growth pattern of growing follicles. The proliferative activity was studied by 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) labelling and by the presence of mitoses. Small growing follicles (less than 275 μ in diameter) were divided into five classes: multilaminar classes a (Ma, up to 75 μm in diameter), b (Mb, 76–150 μm), c (Mc, 151–200 μm) and d (Md, 201-274 μm) and follicles measuring ≥275 μm in diameter were considered as ≥ class 1, following previous classifications. LH concentrations were maximal at 18:30 h on pro-oestrus, and this was coincident with an increase in FSH, prolactin and progesterone concentrations, whereas oestradiol and testosterone concentrations were decreased. From 02:00 h on oestrus the concentrations of all hormones, except those of FSH, were decreased. The number of Ma, Mb and Mc follicles did not change during pro-oestrus-oestrus, whereas an increase in the number of follicles ≥ class 1 was found at 07:00 h on oestrus. This appears to be a consequence of the increased proliferative activity of Md follicles, evidenced by the increase in the BrdU labelling and mitotic index of this follicle class, found from 02:00 to 07:00 h on oestrus, together with a decrease in the percentage of early atretic follicles ≥ class 1 at 07:00 h on oestrus. This study provides an improved classification of small growing follicles into discrete classes and delineates a size class of follicles (Md follicles) that is responsive to the cyclic hormonal changes on early oestrus.

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G Hernandez, JG Hernandez-Jimenez, P Guelmes, JE Sanchez-Criado, C Bellido, Martinez-Morales JR, L Prieto, F Marin, C Glidewell-Kenney, FJ Lopez and R Alonso

The effects of LY117018-HCl (LY; a benzothiophene similar to raloxifene) were examined on various reproductive parameters in female rats. Four-day cyclic rats were treated (10:00 h on dioestrus) with LY (0.01, 0.1, 0.5, 1, 2, 4 or 16 mg kg(-1) p.o.) and assessed for ovulation at oestrus. LY inhibited ovulation at doses as low as 0.5 mg kg(-1), and ovulation did not occur at doses of 4 and 16 mg kg(-1). LY (16 mg kg(-1)) reduced wet uterine mass and LH concentrations at the time of the expected ovulatory surge. Ovulation induced by hCG in pentobarbital-treated rats was not altered by LY treatment, indicating normal ovarian sensitivity to gonadotrophins. LY, however, completely blocked the effects of oestradiol (under either negative or positive feedback modes) on LH secretion in ovariectomized rats. GnRH secretion into hypophyseal portal blood during pro-oestrus was not affected by treatment with LY, whereas the concentrations of serum LH remained reduced. Finally, treatment with LY markedly reduced pituitary sensitivity to GnRH during pro-oestrus, as it completely blocked GnRH-induced LH secretion. These results demonstrate that LY inhibits oestradiol action in the uterus and prevents ovulation in normal cyclic rats. LY-induced inhibition of ovulation is not caused by an alteration of the ovarian response to gonadotrophins or an impairment of GnRH secretion at the hypothalamus, but by a reduction in the sensitivity of gonadotrophs to the stimulatory effects of GnRH during pro-oestrus.

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M Gaytán, M A Sánchez, C Morales, C Bellido, Y Millán, J Martín de las Mulas, J E Sánchez-Criado and F Gaytán

The ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) plays pivotal roles during ovulation and postovulatory wound repair. In this paper we describe the proliferative activity of the OSE through the estrous cycle in adult cycling rats, by immunohistochemical detection of DNA-incorporated bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU). Immunohistochemical detection of estrogen receptor α (ERα) and progesterone receptor was also performed. The cycle of the OSE consists of a proliferative phase (that lasts for two consecutive estrous cycles) and a quiescent phase of variable duration. Cyclic changes in the OSE were related to the underlying ovarian structure. OSE areas covering growing follicles entered into the proliferative phase during the transition from proestrus to estrus, with the appearance of fast-growing class 1 follicles, destined to ovulate at the end of the current estrous cycle. A labeling index (after pulse-labeling BrdU treatment) of about 7% was maintained throughout the estrous cycle in parallel to follicle growth. Cumulative BrdU-labeling (after daily BrdU treatment) indicated that about 1/3 of the total OSE cell proliferation was related to follicle growth. Following ovulation, OSE cells covering newly-formed corpora lutea showed a labeling index of about 50% that decreased through metestrus and diestrus (about 13% and 3%, respectively), returning to basal levels by proestrus. Cumulative BrdU-labeling indicated that about 2/3 of the total proliferative activity was related to ovulation repair/luteinization. The remaining OSE covering ovarian stroma or structurally regressing corpora lutea of previous cycles showed negligible BrdU labeling. The equivalent proliferative activity found in the OSE covering newly-formed corpora lutea in indomethacin-treated rats lacking rupture of the OSE at the apex, demonstrated that ovulation-triggered proliferation was not dependent on the loss of integrity of the OSE at the ovulation site. OSE cells expressed ERα throughout the cycle, but no differential expression was found between proliferating and quiescent OSE areas. On the contrary, OSE cells did not express PR at any time of the cycle. These data indicate the existence of a cycle of the OSE, related to the cyclic changes in the underlying ovarian structure and strongly suggest that the proliferative activity of the OSE is regulated by local microenvironmental rather than by systemic factors.

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Felipe Martínez-Pastor, Eduardo Aisen, María Rocío Fernández-Santos, Milagros C Esteso, Alejandro Maroto-Morales, Olga García-Álvarez and J Julián Garde

Fe2 +/ascorbate, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hypoxanthine/xanthine oxidase (XOD) are commonly used for inducing oxidative stress on spermatozoa. A comparative study of these agents was carried out on thawed spermatozoa from red deer. First, we tested a high, medium, and low concentration of each agent: 100, 10, and 1 μM Fe2 + (hydroxyl radical generator); 1 mM, 100, and 10 μM H2O2; and 100, 10, and 1 mU/ml XOD (superoxide and H2O2 generator), incubated at 37 °C for 180 min. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS; H2DCFDA) increased with dose and time similarly for the three systems at each concentration level. Motility and mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm) were considerably decreased by H2O2 (1 mM and 100 μM) and XOD (100 and 10 mU/ml). Only 1 mM H2O2 reduced viability. The antioxidant Trolox (10 μM) reduced intracellular ROS, but could not prevent the H2O2 or XOD effects. In a second experiment, YO-PRO-1 and M540 were used as apoptotic and membrane stability markers respectively. Only H2O2 increased the proportion of apoptotic and membrane-destabilized spermatozoa. Catalase added to XOD prevented Δψm loss, confirming that H2O2 was the causative agent, not superoxide. In a third experiment, caspase activation was tested using the (FAM-VAD-FMK) probe. Viable spermatozoa with activated caspases could be detected in untreated samples, and only H2O2 increased their proportion after 60 min. There were important differences between ROS generators, H2O2 being the most cytotoxic. Although H2O2 and XOD caused Δψm dissipation, this was not reflected in increasing apoptotic markers.