Summary. The pattern, chemical nature and biological role of polypeptides secreted by ovine follicles exposed to gonadotrophins in vivo were studied. Follicles were removed at intervals before ovulation (in-vivo groups), separated into granulosa and cumulus compartments, and incubated for 3 h with radiolabelled amino acids. No differences were detected in the polypeptides (M r 46 000–60 000) secreted by granulosa and cumulus cells before exposure to the preovulatory LH surge. Each class of polypeptides was characterized by different degrees of phosphorylation, sulphation and glycosylation. Within 15 h of the LH surge the secretion of the M r 46 000–60 000 polypeptides had ceased and was replaced by a non-sulphated M r 30 000 secretory product. Significant differences in the secretory pattern of granulosa and cumulus cells were detected after exposure to LH.
Intact follicles and granulosa cells were cultured for 24 h (in-vitro groups) and then incubated with radiolabelled amino acids. The profile of polypeptides secreted by intact follicles cultured in the presence or absence of LH corresponded closely with the profile observed in vivo. By contrast, granulosa cells grown as monolayers switched spontaneously to the secretion of M r 30 000 polypeptides in medium devoid of gonadotrophin. This aberrant secretory switch did not occur in granulosa cells maintained in suspension culture. Inhibition of transcription in follicles exposed to LH prevented both the appearance of the M r 30 000 polypeptide and the disappearance of the M r 46 000–60 000 polypeptides. Although the inhibition of steroidogenesis by a variety of steroid enzyme inhibitors was without effect on secretion, evidence was obtained to suggest that one of the secreted polypeptides binds oestradiol-17β