Luteal steroids are necessary to maintain the first 70–90 days of pregnancy in the mare. At 35 days postovulation, the resurgence of the primary corpus luteum (CL) coincides with the secretion of the fetal hormone eCG. In order to study the responsiveness of the primary CL to eCG, we have examined levels of luteal equine LH/CG receptors (eLH/CG-R) mRNAs by Northern blot analysis and measured concentrations of eLH/CG binding sites on luteal membranes using 125I-eLH saturation binding assays at three stages of gestation: before the onset of eCG secretion (Days 14–31), from onset to maximum eCG secretion (Days 38–62), and during decline of eCG secretion (Days 83–101). Multiple transcripts of eLH/CG-R (7, 5.7, 4.9, 3.9, 2.8, 1.8, 0.6 kilobase [kb]) were identified in the primary CL at all stages examined. Three of them (5.7, 2.8, 0.6 kb) coded for truncated eLH/CG-R lacking the transmembrane domain. The relative intensities of the four major transcripts tended to decrease (5.7 and 3.9 kb) or were steadily expressed (7 and 1.8 kb) during pregnancy. The affinity of eLH/CG binding sites did not change during pregnancy whereas the number of eLH/CG binding sites decreased significantly after the onset of eCG secretion. Nevertheless, levels of binding sites were still at 44.6% (Days 38–62) to 24.7% (Days 83–101) of those measured before the onset of eCG secretion. Taken together, the presence of eLH/CG-R mRNAs and of a substantial part of eLH/CG binding sites with high affinity suggest that the primary CL still expresses a high number of eLH/CG-R and remains responsive to eCG during early pregnancy.
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