Changes in ovarian maturation-inducing steroid (MIS; 17,20β,21-trihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one [20β-S]) membrane receptor concentrations during the reproductive cycle were investigated in spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) captured at their spawning grounds. Ovarian receptor concentrations increased gradually during ovarian recrudescence and subsequently increased rapidly during oocyte maturation, reaching 3.5-fold the prematuration values by the beginning of ovulation. The significant elevation of receptor concentrations by the germinal vesicle migration stage of oocyte maturation was accompanied by increases in circulating levels of gonadotropin (LH, GTH II) and MIS (20β-S). The regulation and physiological significance of the increase in ovarian MIS membrane receptor concentrations were investigated in a double in vitro incubation system. Incubation of fully grown, follicle-enclosed oocytes with hCG (10 IU/ml) for 6 h caused a two- to fourfold increase in oocyte and ovarian MIS receptor concentrations and the development of oocyte maturational competence (OMC; ability to complete oocyte maturation in vitro in response to exogenous 20β-S in a second incubation). Both upregulation of the MIS receptor and development of OMC in response to gonadotropin were blocked by coincubation with actinomycin D or cycloheximide, which are inhibitors of mRNA and protein synthesis, respectively, but not by cyanoketone, which is an inhibitor of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-dependent steroid synthesis. Incubation with a variety of steroids, including 20β-S, failed to increase receptor concentrations or to induce OMC, further supporting a steroid-independent mechanism of gonadotropin action. In contrast, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) mimicked the actions of gonadotropin, which suggests IGF-I may be a component of the hormone signaling pathway. A close correlation was found between the relative increase in MIS receptor concentrations and the percentage of oocytes that became maturationally competent after treatment with different concentrations of gonadotropins and drugs that elevate cAMP levels. The finding that upregulation of the MIS receptor in response to gonadotropin and other treatments is invariably associated with the development of OMC indicates that these two processes are intimately related, and it suggests that the increase in MIS receptor concentrations is a critical regulatory step in the hormonal control of oocyte maturation.
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