Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) regulation of aromatase gene expression in vitro requires the transcriptional coactivator beta-catenin. To ascertain the physiological significance of beta-catenin in granulosa cells during folliculogenesis, mice homozygous for floxed alleles of beta-catenin were intercrossed with Amhr2cre mice. Conditional deletion of beta-catenin in 8-wk-old females occurred in derivatives of the Müllerian duct, granulosa cells and, surprisingly, in brain, pituitary, heart, liver, and tail. Female mice deficient for beta-catenin were infertile, despite reaching puberty and ovulating at the expected age, indications of apparently normal ovarian function. In contrast, their oviducts were grossly distended, with fewer but healthy oocytes. In addition, their uteri lacked implantation sites. Together, these two phenotypes could explain the complete loss of fertility. Nevertheless, although the ovary appeared normal, with serum estradiol concentrations in the normal range, there was marked animal-to-animal variation of mRNAs encoding beta-catenin and aromatase. Similarly, inhibin-alpha and luteinizing hormone receptor mRNAs varied considerably in whole ovaries, whereas pituitary Fshb mRNA was significantly reduced. Collectively, these features suggested cyclization recombination (CRE)-mediated recombination of beta-catenin may be unstable in proliferating granulosa cells, and therefore may mask the suspected steroidogenic requirement for beta-catenin. We tested this possibility by transducing primary cultures of granulosa cells from mice homozygous for floxed alleles of beta-catenin with a CRE-expressing adenovirus. Reduction of beta-catenin significantly compromised FSH stimulation of aromatase mRNA and subsequent production of estradiol. Collectively, these data suggest that FSH regulation of steroidogenesis requires beta-catenin, a role that remains hidden when tested through Amhr2cre-mediated recombination in vivo.
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Vol. 80 • No. 6