Betaglycan was originally characterized as the type III receptor for TGFβ, yet recent research has indicated that betaglycan can serve as an accessory receptor for inhibin. To understand better the action of inhibin in avian follicular development, we have investigated the expression of betaglycan in the pituitary gland and ovary of the hen. In experiments 1 and 2, betaglycan mRNA was detected at 6 kilobases (kb) by Northern blot analysis (n = 5) in chicken pituitary, granulosa, and theca layers and whole ovary. Expression of betaglycan was greatest in the pituitary gland in experiment 1 and greater in the granulosa layer of small yellow follicles (SYF) compared with the granulosa layer of larger follicles. In experiment 2, betaglycan mRNA was more abundantly expressed in the theca layer compared with the granulosa layer for all follicle sizes, although there was no significant difference in betaglycan expression in the theca layer among follicle sizes. In experiment 3, immunohistochemical analysis revealed betaglycan protein in the anterior pituitary as well as in the ovary (n = 4) and SYF (n = 4). Colocalization studies revealed a high abundance of cells within the anterior pituitary expressing both betaglycan and FSH (n = 4). Betaglycan protein was found in the granulosa layer; however, markedly enhanced staining was observed in the theca layer of ovarian follicles. Our results provide evidence for expression of betaglycan mRNA and protein colocalization with FSH in the anterior pituitary, consistent with known inhibin effects. Ovarian localization of betaglycan, particularly in the theca layer, suggests a paracrine role for inhibin in the hen.
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