Summary. Intact immature female rats were treated with 1, 2, 3 or 4 subcutaneous injections of 2 mg diethylstilboestrol (DES)/rat at intervals of 24 h and then killed. Ovaries were collected, cleaned, enzymically digested and serially filtered through Teflon sieves to yield follicles of diameter <200 μm (small), 200–400 μm (medium) and >400μm (large). Follicular supernatant was collected and granulosa cells were extracted from these isolated follicles. There was a general increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation in all sizes of follicles after 1 or 2 DES injections, the increase in the medium and large follicles being significant after 2 doses. With 3 and 4 injections of DES, there was a sudden decrease in the rates of [3H]thymidine incorporation, particularly in the medium-sized follicles, which also had higher concentrations of follicular supernatant protein. Protein contents in small and large follicles did not change significantly. The follicular supernatant protein had a specific and dose-dependent inhibitory effect on [3H]thymidine incorporation when added to cultures of rapidly dividing granulosa cells. Addition of the same amounts of bovine serum albumin (BSA) to the cultures had no effect. Heat-denaturing did not abolish the inhibition by the protein. Removal of the protein from the cultures after the first 48 h resulted in a rebound increase in [3H]thymidine incorporation during the following 48 h, showing that the inhibitory effects were reversible. Though aromatase activity after 1 or 2 DES injections abruptly decreased after 3 and 4 injections, follicular supernatant protein had no effect on steroidogenesis in cultured granulosa cells.
Taken together, these findings suggest that oestrogen can inhibit follicular development, depending on the duration of exposure. We propose that the inhibitory effects of DES on cell proliferation are mediated via the synthesis of a specific peptide factor which is produced in high amounts in the medium-sized follicles only, on prolonged exposure to the oestrogen. This factor may be autocrine or paracrine, serving as an in-built autoregulatory control mechanism for follicle development, particularly at pro-oestrus, when oestrogen concentations are highest.
Keywords: diethylstilboestrol; follicle; thymidine; protein; inhibition; rat