Human chorionic gonadotropin-dependent induction of an equine aldo-keto reductase (AKR1C23) with 20α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity during follicular luteinization in vivo
Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
Aldo-keto reductases (AKRs) are multifunctional enzymes capable of acting on a wide variety of substrates, including sex steroids. AKRs having 20alpha-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (20alpha-HSD) activity can reduce progesterone to 20alpha-hydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (20alpha-DHP), a metabolite with lower affinity for the progesterone receptor. The objective of this study was to investigate the regulation of equine AKR1C23 during human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)-induced ovulation/luteinization. The equine AKR1C23 cDNA was cloned and shown to encode a 322 amino acid protein that is conserved (71-81% identity) when compared with mammalian orthologs. RT-PCR/Southern blotting analyses were performed to study the regulation of AKR1C23 transcripts in equine preovulatory follicles isolated between 0 and 39 h after hCG treatment (ovulation occurring 39-42 h post-hCG). Results showed the presence of low AKR1C23 expression before hCG treatment, but a marked increase was observed in follicles obtained 12 h after hCG (P<0.05). Analyses of isolated preparations of granulosa and theca interna cells identified low mRNA expression in both cell types prior to hCG treatment, with granulosa cells clearly being the predominant site of follicular AKR1C23 mRNA induction. A specific polyclonal antibody was raised against a fragment of the equine protein and immunoblotting analyses showed an increase in AKR1C23 protein in granulosa cell extracts when comparing follicles isolated at 36 h post-hCG vs those collected prior to treatment, in keeping with mRNA results. Immunohistochemical data confirmed the induction of the enzyme in follicular cells after hCG treatment. The enzyme was tested for 20alpha-HSD activity and was shown to exhibit a K(M) of 3.12 microM, and a V(max) of 0.86 pmol/min per 10 microg protein towards progesterone. The levels of 20alpha-DHP measured in follicular fluid reflected this activity. Collectively, these results demonstrate for the first time that the gonadotropin-dependent induction of follicular luteinization is accompanied by an increase in AKR1C23 expression. Considering the 20alpha-HSD activity of AKR1C23, its regulated expression in luteinizing preovulatory follicles may provide a biochemical basis for the increase in ovarian 20alpha-DHP observed during gonadotropin-induced luteinization/ovulation. (The nucleotide sequence reported in this paper has been submitted to GenBank with accession number AY955082.).