Cyclic AMP signaling is involved in most aspects of differentiation and maturation of the granulosa cells in the ovarian follicle. As the genetic programs activated at different stages of follicle growth maturation are being elucidated, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile the simplicity of the cAMP cascade with the complexity and the divergent patterns of gene expression activated in these cells. To account for these divergent outcomes of the cAMP signal, three aspects of this signaling cascade in granulosa cells will be reviewed. We will discuss the evidence for gonadotropin receptors coupling to different G proteins and effectors. Next, we will explore the possibility that the temporal and spatial dimensions of the cAMP signal itself may contribute to the diverse outcomes. Finally, we will summarize available data showing that the cAMP signal is distributed through several cascades of kinase activation. It is hoped this compendium will provide a framework with which to understand how the initial signals activated by gonadotropins control the complex patterns of gene expression that are required for follicle maturation and ovulation.
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