In the present study, we cloned and characterized zebrafish FSH receptor (Fshr) and LH receptor (Lhr). Both fshr and lhr were abundantly expressed in the zebrafish gonads; however, they could also be detected in the kidney and liver, respectively. When overexpressed in mammalian cell lines together with a cAMP-responsive reporter gene, zebrafish Fshr responded to goldfish pituitary extract but not hCG, whereas Lhr could be activated by both. It was further demonstrated that Fshr was specific to bFSH, while Lhr could be stimulated by both bovine FSH and LH. Low level of fshr expression could be detected in the immature ovary, but the level steadily increased during vitellogenesis of the first cohort of developing follicles. In contrast, the expression of lhr could barely be detected in the immature ovary, but it became detectable at the beginning of vitellogenesis and steadily increased afterward with the peak level reached at the full-grown stage. At the follicle level, the expression of fshr was very weak in the follicles of primary growth stage but significantly increased with the follicles entering vitellogenesis. However, after reaching the maximal level in the midvitellogenic follicles, the level of fshr expression dropped slightly but significantly at the full-grown stage. In comparison, the expression of lhr obviously lagged behind that of fshr. Its expression became detectable only when the follicles started to accumulate yolk granules, but the level rose steadily afterward and reached the peak at the full-grown stage before oocyte maturation. These results suggest differential roles for Fshr and Lhr in zebrafish ovarian follicle development.
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