The action of LH is mediated through specific plasma membrane receptors that are both up- and down-regulated in the ovary during the reproductive cycle. Using immature rats treated with PMSG and hCG as a model system, we have studied the regulation and distribution of LH receptor mRNA in different cell types during follicle development, ovulation, and luteinization by Northern blot and in situ hybridization. In untreated rats, LH receptor mRNA was below the detection level in granulosa cells, cumulus cells, and oocytes, while low levels of LH receptor mRNA were found in the thecal cells. After stimulation with PMSG, expression of LH receptor mRNA was enhanced in the thecal-interstitial cells, while a more dramatic increase in receptor mRNA abundance took place in granulosa cells of large tertiary follicles. In these follicles, the abundance of LH receptor mRNA varied among different subpopulations of granulosa cells, with mural granulosa cells close to the basement membrane exhibiting higher levels than granulosa cells located closer to the antrum, and cumulus cells and the oocyte lacking detectable hybridization signal. The uneven expression of LH receptor mRNA endows different ovarian cells with varying hormonal responsiveness. After an ovulatory dose of hCG, LH receptor mRNA levels were dramatically decreased, particularly in the granulosa cells of preovulatory follicles, to reach the lowest levels just before ovulation. During the transformation of ovulated follicles into corpora lutea, the expression of LH receptor message was again increased. Our results reveal that the previously documented regulation of the LH receptor-binding activity during ovarian development correlates with expression of the LH receptor transcripts, suggesting that the LH receptor gene is regulated in a complex manner during the periovulatory period to achieve cell-specific expression together with gonadotropin induction and suppression of receptor gene activity.
1991. Vol. 129, no 6, 3200-7 p.