Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) play critical roles in folliculogenesis by modulating the actions of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in the ovary. However, the effects of FSH on the BMP system remain unknown. Here, we have investigated the effects of FSH on BMP signaling using the human granulosa-like tumor cell line KGN. KGN cells express BMP type I and type II receptors and the BMP signaling molecules SMADs. FSH administration upregulated BMP type IA (BMPR1A) and IB (BMPR1B) receptors, activin type II receptor (ACVR2), and BMP type II receptor (BMPR2). FSH also augmented SMAD1 and SMAD5 expression, and conversely, FSH suppressed the expression of the inhibitory SMADs, SMAD6 and SMAD7. Bioassays revealed that FSH enhances BMP-induced SMAD1/5/8 phosphorylation and cellular DNA synthesis induced by BMP6 and BMP7. Since overexpression of BMPR1A and BMPR1B, but not SMADs, significantly enhanced the BMP responses, these type I receptors were revealed to be limiting factors for BMP signaling in KGN cells. BMPs significantly suppressed progesterone synthesis induced by forskolin and dibutyryl-cAMP (BtcAMP) but had no effect on estradiol induced by the same factors. KGN cAMP levels induced by forskolin were not altered by BMPs, suggesting that BMPs regulate steroidogenesis at a level downstream of cAMP synthesis in KGN cells. In this regard, BMPs specifically reduced the STAR transcription, whereas the levels of CYP11A, HSD3B2, and CYP19 stimulated by forskolin as well as BtcAMP were not altered. Collectively, the two major factors, FSH-cAMP pathway and BMP system, are reciprocally and functionally linked. Given that BMPs downregulate FSH receptors in KGN cells, this interaction may contribute to fine-tuning of the mutual sensitivity toward BMP ligands and FSH.
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