Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) is a bioactive peptide isolated from ovine hypothalamus. It has been demonstrated to be transiently expressed in preovulatory follicles and to positively affect several parameters correlated with the ovulatory process. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether PACAP influences the plasminogen/plasmin system in rat ovary. Plasminogen activators (PAs) are serine proteases, modulated by gonadotropins and several peptides in preovulatory follicles, that appear to be involved in ovulation. Granulosa cells obtained from immature eCG-treated rats were cultured for 24 h in the presence of increasing concentrations of PACAP and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). A significant, dose-dependent increase in tissue-type PA (tPA) activity and decrease in urokinase-type (uPA) PA activity were observed in PACAP-treated cells. These effects were exerted at the mRNA level. The use of cycloheximide, a protein synthesis inhibitor, suggested that PACAP requires an intermediary protein to decrease uPA-mRNA, but not to induce tPA-mRNA. However, no significant modulation of PAs was observed in the presence of VIP. When granulosa cells were stimulated within the intact follicle (i.e., maintaining the three-dimensional structure and in the presence of the theca cell layers), both PACAP and VIP dose-dependently stimulated tPA. These data suggest that, in addition to the PACAP type I receptor present on granulosa cells, different subtypes of PACAP receptors are present in the different ovarian compartments.
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