Although cyclin D2 mRNA synthesis precedes gonadotropin-induced DNA synthesis in quiescent granulosa cells in culture, it is unclear whether a similar mechanism exists for the granulosa cells of growing preantral follicles in cyclic animals. The objective was to evaluate whether the synthesis of cyclin D2 protein was a prerequisite for FSH-induced DNA synthesis in the granulosa cells of intact preantral follicles of cyclic hamsters. Preantral follicles from cyclic hamsters were cultured in the presence or absence of FSH, and cell cycle parameters were examined. FSH stimulated cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-4 activity by 2 h and DNA synthesis by 4 h without altering the levels of cyclin D2 in the granulosa cells. The FSH effect was mimicked by epidermal growth factor administered in vivo. Although FSH increased the levels of cyclin D2 mRNA, it also stimulated the degradation of cyclin D2 as well as p27Kip1 and p19INK4 proteins. FSH activation of CDK4 was mediated by cAMP and ERK-1/2. In contrast to granulosa cells in intact follicles, FSH or cAMP significantly increased cyclin D2 protein levels in cultured granulosa cells but failed to induce DNA synthesis. Collectively, these data suggest that granulosa cells of preantral follicles, which are destined to enter the S phase during the estrous cycle, contain necessary amounts of cyclin D2 and other G1 phase components. FSH stimulation results in the formation and activation of the cyclin D2/CDK4 complex leading to DNA synthesis. This mechanism may be necessary for rapid movement of follicles from preantral to antral stages during the short duration of the murine estrous cycle.
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