Menopause is an important public health issue because of its association with a number of disorders. Androgens produced by residual ovarian tissue after menopause could impact the development of these disorders. It has been unclear, however, whether the postmenopausal ovary retains steroidogenic capacity. Thus, an ovary-intact mouse model for menopause that uses the occupational chemical 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD) was used to characterize the expression of steroidogenic genes in residual ovarian tissue of follicle-depleted mice. Female B6C3F1 mice (age, 28 days) were dosed daily for 20 days with either vehicle or VCD (160 mg kg(-1) day(-1)) to induce ovarian failure. Ovaries were collected on Day 181 and analyzed for mRNA and protein. Acyclic aged mice were used as controls for natural ovarian senescence. Relative to cycling controls, expression of mRNA encoding steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (Star); cholesterol side-chain cleavage (Cyp11a1); 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (Hsd3b); 17alpha-hydroxylase (Cyp17a1); scavenger receptor class B, type 1 (Scarb1); low-density lipoprotein receptor (Ldlr); and luteinizing hormone receptor (Lhcgr) was enriched in VCD-treated ovaries. In acyclic aged ovaries, mRNA expression for only Cyp17a1 and Lhcgr was greater than that in controls. Compared to cycling controls, ovaries from VCD-treated and aged mice had similar levels of HSD3B, CYP17A1, and LHCGR protein. The pattern of protein immunofluorescence staining for HSD3B in follicle-depleted (VCD-treated) ovaries was homogeneous, whereas that for CYP17A1 was only seen in residual interstitial cells. Circulating levels of FSH and LH were increased, and androstenedione levels were detectable following follicle depletion in VCD-treated mice. These findings support the idea that residual ovarian tissue in VCD-treated mice retains androgenic capacity.
The organochlorine pesticide methoxychlor (MXC) is a known endocrine disruptor that affects adult rodent females by causing reduced fertility, persistent estrus, and ovarian atrophy. Since MXC is also known to target antral follicles, the major producer of sex steroids in the ovary, the present study was designed to test the hypothesis that MXC decreases estradiol (E₂) levels by altering steroidogenic and metabolic enzymes in the antral follicles. To test this hypothesis, antral follicles were isolated from CD-1 mouse ovaries and cultured with either dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) or MXC. Follicle growth was measured every 24 h for 96 h. In addition, sex steroid hormone levels were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and mRNA expression levels of steroidogenic enzymes as well as the E₂ metabolic enzyme Cyp1b1 were measured using qPCR. The results indicate that MXC decreased E₂, testosterone, androstenedione, and progesterone (P₄) levels compared to DMSO. In addition, MXC decreased expression of aromatase (Cyp19a1), 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (Hsd17b1), 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase (Cyp17a1), 3β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (Hsd3b1), cholesterol side-chain cleavage (Cyp11a1), steroid acute regulatory protein (Star), and increased expression of Cyp1b1 enzyme levels. Thus, these data suggest that MXC decreases steroidogenic enzyme levels, increases metabolic enzyme expression and this in turn leads to decreased sex steroid hormone levels.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine disruptor that inhibits growth of mouse ovarian follicles and disrupts steroidogenesis at a dose of 438μM. However, the effects of lower doses of BPA and its mechanism of action in ovarian follicles are unknown. We hypothesized that low doses of BPA inhibit follicular growth and decrease estradiol levels through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) pathway. Antral follicles from wild-type and Ahr knock-out (AhrKO) mice were cultured for 96h. Follicle diameters and estradiol levels then were compared in wild-type and AhrKO follicles ± BPA (0.004-438μM). BPA inhibited follicle growth (110-438μM) and decreased estradiol levels (43.8-438μM) in wild-type and AhrKO follicles. However, at BPA 110μM, inhibition of growth in AhrKO follicles was attenuated compared to wild-type follicles. These data suggest that BPA may inhibit follicle growth partially via the AHR pathway, whereas its effects on estradiol synthesis likely involve other mechanisms.