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Ruth E. Fowler

Summary. Immature mice were treated with PMSG and hCG to induce follicular development and ovulation. [3H]Glucosamine was injected at the same time as the PMSG or 2 h before autopsy. The synthesis and distribution of labelled glycoconjugates within the preovulatory follicles was hormonally dependent. PMSG stimulated a rapid uptake of [3H]glucosamine into the zona pellucida and follicular fluid of the largest antral follicles although labelled macromolecules could not be demonstrated in any of the cellular components of these follicles. The injection of hCG stimulated a rapid incorporation of labelled macromolecules into the cellular components of the preovulatory follicle, namely into thecal, granulosa and especially the cumulus cells surrounding the oocyte. The density of labelled macromolecules within the follicular fluid also increased, while the specific and uniform labelling of the zona pellucida which was so characteristic of the period of PMSG stimulation changed. Between 4 and 8 h after the injection of hCG, labelled glycoconjugates containing [3H]glucosamine, became increasingly associated with the outer surface of the zona pellucida and with the region of the egg plasma membrane, even in Graafian follicles not destined to ovulate. The change in distribution of labelled macromolecules on the zona surface may be a prerequisite for successful sperm–zona binding and the specific association of labelled glycoconjugates in the region of the egg plasma membrane may be involved in the preparation of the egg surface for sperm–egg interactions involving cortical granule exocytosis and the block to polyspermy.

Keywords: preovulatory mouse follicles; gonadotrophins; [3H]glucosamine; glycoconjugates; autoradiography

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Ruth E. Fowler and K. Guttridge

Summary. Autoradiography of serial sections of ovaries of immature mice was used, after an injection of [3H]glucosamine, to follow the migration of newly synthesized macromolecules into preantral follicles during the period of treatment with PMSG and hCG. [3H]Glucosamine was injected at the same time as the PMSG or 2-h before the time of autopsy. PMSG stimulated a modest uptake of [3H]glucosamine into the zona pellucida of preantral follicles. However, the in-vivo synthesis of labelled macromolecules increased substantially during the period of hCG stimulation, especially in those mice in which the label was injected at the same time as the PMSG. After both short and longer term exposure to [3H]glucosamine, the maximum uptake of label in preantral follicles occurred 4–8 h after the injection of hCG, indicating that hCG rather than PMSG probably exerts the greatest control over the uptake and incorporation of [3H]glucosamine into the zona pellucida and oocyte of preantral follicles. It is suggested that [3H]glucosamine is largely incorporated into non-sulphated glycosaminoglycans.

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Ruth E. Fowler, M. H. Johnson, D. E. Walters and Deborah D. Eager

Summary. A detailed study has been made of the progesterone content of uterine flushings taken from rabbits of different endocrine states. A high content of progesterone was recovered from the uterine lumen of pregnant and pseudopregnant rabbits. The amount of progesterone recovered in the flushings was not simply dependent on the concentration in the plasma, because plasma progesterone concentrations rose before detection of progesterone in the flushings and remained high after uterine progesterone content had fallen. Progesterone did not appear in the uterine fluid unless uterine protein was present. This was particularly evident in rabbits treated with progesterone in which, despite abnormally high plasma concentrations, little progesterone was found in uterine fluid until the protein content increased. After treatment of rabbits with oestrogen at the time of ovulation, uterine progesterone was present in higher amounts concomitant with an elevation of protein content although the peak values of progesterone and protein were delayed by 2–3 days. Plasma progesterone concentrations of about 5 ng/ml were necessary before progesterone appeared in the uterine lumen.

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Ruth E. Fowler, M. H. Johnson, D. E. Walters and Hester P. M. Pratt

Department of Physiology, Department of Anatomy, andtDepartment of Applied Biology, Downing Street, Cambridge, U.K.

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Ruth E. Fowler, N. L. Fox, R. G. Edwards and P. C. Steptoe

Summary. Granulosa cells were aspirated 3–4 h before the expected time of ovulation from 10 follicles of 4 patients treated with gonadotrophins: 4 of the follicles were immediately preovulatory. The granulosa cells were cultured for 10 h with 17α-hydroxypregnenolone or dehydroepiandrosterone and samples of medium removed at 3 and 10 h were assayed for 6 steroids.

Granulosa cells were unable to synthesize androgens from endogenous substrate or undertake conversions via the Δ5 pathway, but cells from all follicles were capable of aromatizing exogenous androgens to oestrogens although this capability was reduced in cells from follicles beginning to luteinize. Granulosa cells from preovulatory follicles synthesized more progesterone from endogenous substrate than cells from follicles which had not begun to luteinize. The results provide further support for the two-cell theory of oestrogen biosynthesis whereby granulosa cells aromatize androgens which are synthesized by the thecal cells in vivo.