Convincing evidence supports the role of ovarian-origin vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in inducing vascular permeability (VP) and ascites associated with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) in mammals, including humans. A circulatory dysfunction has been described in every woman treated with gonadotropins for in vitro fertilization. It is not known, however, whether the action of gonadotropins also includes up-regulation of the VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) and whether increased VP is also found when milder stimulation is used. Thus, we applied an OHSS animal model to answer these questions. Immature female rats were stimulated with saline (control group) or with high (10 IU of eCG × 4 days 30 IU hCG, OHSS group) or mild (10 IU of eCG 10 IU of hCG, mild-stimulation group) doses of gonadotropins. The VP and the expression of whole-VEGF and VEGFR-2 mRNAs were analyzed through time-course experiments (0, 24, 48, and 96 h after hCG). Although eCG increased VP and the expression of VEGF and VEGFR-2 mRNAs in the ovaries of both mild- and OHSS-stimulated animals, hCG further augmented these parameters and produced the highest values after 48 h. A linear correlation was found between increased expression of VEGF and VEGFR-2 mRNAs and enhanced VP in both mild and OHSS groups. Immunohistochemistry showed the presence of VEGF and VEGFR-2 in the granulosa-lutein and endothelial cells of the entire corpus luteum. These studies confirm that in hyperstimulated animals as well as in mildly treated rats, VEGF and VEGFR-2 are overexpressed and associated with an increase in VP, which may be responsible for the accumulation of ascitic fluid in the syndrome.
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