Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) mediates cholesterol transport into the mitochondria and is essential for ovarian steroidogenesis. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been reported to inhibit FSH-stimulated differentiation in porcine granulosa cells. Previous studies have demonstrated FSH stimulates StAR mRNA accumulation and gene promoter activation in granulosa cells. Treatment of granulosa cells with FSH (5 ng/ml, 6 h) increased StAR mRNA, whereas coaddition of EGF (10 ng/ ml) significantly reduced (P < 0.05) FSH-stimulated mRNA accumulation by 62.7% ± 13.9%. Under these same conditions, FSH-stimulated cAMP accumulation in cultures was unaltered by coincubation with EGF. RNA stability studies showed that cotreatment with FSH and EGF did not alter the StAR mRNA half-life compared with FSH alone, t1/2 = 1.9–3.8 and 2.7–4.1 h, respectively. EGF significantly inhibited (P < 0.05) FSH-stimulated StAR heterogeneous nuclear RNA levels by 47.6% ± 6.8 %, implicating a repressive effect on transcription. Surprisingly, EGF (1–50 ng/ml) did not affect FSH stimulation of a 1423-base pair StAR gene promoter-luciferase construct in transient transfection assays in porcine granulosa cells. To evaluate FSH and EGF effects on the endogenous StAR gene, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were performed in combination with real-time polymerase chain reaction. FSH increased histone H3 acetylation (lysines 9, 14) within the proximal region of the StAR gene promoter and coincubation with EGF blocked this effect. Dimethylation (lysine 9) of histone H3 was not influenced by treatments. In conclusion, EGF repression of FSH-stimulated StAR transcription in porcine granulosa cells is accompanied by reductions in histone H3 acetylation associated with the StAR gene promoter.
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