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Soon Ok Kim, Nune Markosyan, Gerald J Pepe and Diane M Duffy

Prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) has been proposed as a functional luteolysin in primates. However, administration of PGF2α or prostaglandin synthesis inhibitors in vivo both initiate luteolysis. These contradictory findings may reflect changes in PGF2α receptors (PTGFRs) or responsiveness to PGF2α at a critical point during the life span of the corpus luteum. The current study addressed this question using ovarian cells and tissues from female cynomolgus monkeys and luteinizing granulosa cells from healthy women undergoing follicle aspiration. PTGFRs were present in the cytoplasm of monkey granulosa cells, while PTGFRs were localized in the perinuclear region of large, granulosa-derived monkey luteal cells by mid-late luteal phase. A PTGFR agonist decreased progesterone production in luteal cells obtained at mid-late and late luteal phases, but did not decrease progesterone production by granulosa cells or luteal cells from younger corpora lutea. These findings are consistent with a role for perinuclear PTGFRs in functional luteolysis. This concept was explored using human luteinizing granulosa cells maintained in vitro as a model for luteal cell differentiation. In these cells, PTGFRs relocated from the cytoplasm to the perinuclear area in an estrogen- and estrogen receptor-dependent manner. Similar to our findings with monkey luteal cells, human luteinizing granulosa cells with perinuclear PTGFRs responded to a PTGFR agonist with decreased progesterone production. These data support the concept that PTGFR stimulation promotes functional luteolysis only when PTGFRs are located in the perinuclear region. Estrogen receptor-mediated relocation of PTGFRs within luteal cells may be a necessary step in the initiation of luteolysis in primates.

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D Randall Armant, Graham W Aberdeen, Brian A Kilburn, Gerald J Pepe and Eugene D Albrecht

Placental extravillous trophoblast remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries is important for promoting blood flow to the placenta and fetal development. Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF), an EGF family member, stimulates differentiation and invasive capacity of extravillous trophoblasts in vitro. Trophoblast expression and maternal levels of HB-EGF are reduced at term in women with preeclampsia, but it is uncertain whether HB-EGF is downregulated earlier when it may contribute to placental insufficiency. A nonhuman primate model has been established in which trophoblast remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries is suppressed by shifting the rise in estrogen from the second to the first trimester of baboon pregnancy. In the present study, we used this model to determine if placental HB-EGF is altered by prematurely elevating estrogen early in baboon gestation. Uterine spiral artery remodeling and placental expression of HB-EGF and other EGF family members were assessed on day 60 of gestation in baboons treated with estradiol (E2) daily between days 25 and 59 of gestation (term = 184 days). The percentages of spiral artery remodeling were 90, 84 and 70% lower (P < 0.01), respectively, for vessels of 26–50, 51–100 and >100 µm diameter in E2-treated compared with untreated baboons. HB-EGF protein quantified by immunocytochemical staining/image analysis was decreased three-fold (P < 0.01) in the placenta of E2-treated versus untreated baboons, while amphiregulin (AREG) and EGF expression was unaltered. Therefore, we propose that HB-EGF modulates the estrogen-sensitive remodeling of the uterine spiral arteries by the extravillous trophoblast in early baboon pregnancy.