Activin A regulation of the expression of mRNA for the LH receptor, FSH receptor, and the inhibin α subunit as well as the effect of activin A on the secretion of progesterone were investigated in chicken granulosa cell cultures. Granulosa layers were isolated from the F1 and F3 F4 follicles from five hens, pooled according to size, dispersed, and cultured for 48 h. In experiment 1 (n = 3 replications), granulosa cells were cultured with or without highly purified ovine (o) FSH at 50 ng/ml and in the presence of 0, 10, or 50 ng/ml of recombinant chicken activin A. Experiment 2 (n = 4 replications) followed the same protocol as experiment 1, except that oFSH was replaced with oLH. Results from these experiments showed that addition of activin A to the granulosa cell cultures had no effect on the expression of mRNA for the inhibin α subunit or the FSH receptor, but it did affect the expression of mRNA for the LH receptor. Treatment of F3 F4 granulosa cells with LH stimulated the expression of mRNA for the LH receptor; however, when LH was combined with either dose of activin A, this induction was prevented. The highest dose of activin A with or without LH resulted in decreased expression of the LH receptor compared to the untreated controls in the F3 F4 cell cultures. Progesterone secretion by the granulosa cells from both follicle sizes was not altered by activin A. In experiment 3 (n = 3 replications), the effect of activin A on the growth of granulosa cells was examined with the following treatments: 0, 10, or 50 ng/ml of activin A; 50 ng/ml of either oLH or oFSH; and oLH or oFSH combined with 10 ng/ml of activin A. The highest dose of activin reduced the rate of granulosa cell proliferation in both follicle types. Growth of F1 and F3 F4 granulosa cells was stimulated by the addition of either gonadotropin, and the presence of 10 ng/ml of activin A with either gonadotropin did not alter this proliferation, except for the LH-treated F3 F4 granulosa cells, in which the increase in proliferation was prevented. The results suggest that activin A could act as a local factor that regulates follicular maturation by preventing excessive or untimely LH receptor expression.
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