Aromatase is the enzyme complex that catalyses the synthesis of oestrogens from androgens, and therefore it has unique potential to influence the physiological balance between the sex steroid hormones. Both aromatase cytochrome P450 (P450arom) and NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase (reductase), the two essential components of the enzyme complex, are highly conserved among mammals and vertebrates. Aromatase expression occurs in the gonads and brain, and is essential for reproductive development and fertility. Of interest are the complex mechanisms involving alternative promoter utilization that have evolved to control tissue-specific expression in these tissues. In addition, in a number of species, including humans, expression of aromatase has a broader tissue distribution, including placenta, adipose and bone. The relevance of oestrogen synthesis and possibly androgen metabolism in these peripheral sites of expression is now becoming clear from studies in P450arom knockout (ArKO) mice and from genetic defects recognized recently in both men and women. Important species differences in the physiological roles of aromatase expression are also likely to emerge, despite the highly conserved nature of the enzyme system. The identification of functionally distinct, tissue-specific isozymes of P450arom in at least one mammal, pigs, and several species of fish indicates that there are additional subtle, but physiologically significant, species-specific roles for aromatase. Comparative studies of mammalian and other vertebrate aromatases will expand understanding of the role played by this ancient enzyme system in the evolution of reproduction and the adaptive influence of oestrogen synthesis on general health and well being.
A Conley and M Hinshelwood
J. K. Critser, M. J. Lindstrom, M. M. Hinshelwood and E. R Hauser
Summary. Angus and Angus crossbred heifers were ovariectomized, treated with oestradiol implants and randomly assigned to (1) the natural photoperiod of fall to spring for 43°N latitude or (2) extra light simulating the photoperiod of spring to fall. Weekly blood samples were taken for 6 months (fall to spring equinox). All heifers were cannulated every 4 weeks and blood samples were taken for 4 h at 15-min intervals. Sera were assayed for LH, FSH, prolactin and oestradiol. In samples taken weekly, serum LH and FSH concentrations were higher while serum prolactin was lower in heifers exposed to natural photoperiod. There was a photoperiod × time interaction for both FSH and prolactin with concentrations diverging as photoperiod diverged. Circulating concentrations of oestradiol were not different between groups. In samples taken every 4 weeks at 15-min intervals, baseline concentrations of LH and FSH and LH pulse amplitude were higher while prolactin pulse frequency was lower in heifers exposed to natural photoperiod. There was a photoperiod × time interaction for each of these pulsatile characteristics. The correlation between LH and prolactin concentrations estimated from the 15-min samples differed between the two photoperiod treatment groups. The pooled correlation coefficient (r) was −0·12 under natural photoperiod and +0·50 under extra light. There was also a photoperiod × time interaction with negative correlations occurring when photoperiod was decreasing and positive correlations occurring when photoperiod was increasing. These results support the hypothesis that photoperiod alters serum concentrations of LH, FSH and prolactin in cattle.