Interaction between ovarian and adrenal steroids in the regulation of gonadotropin secretion

Virendra B. Mahesh, Darrell W. Brann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Recent work from our laboratory suggests that a complex interaction exists between ovarian and adrenal steroids in the regulation of preovulatory gonadotropin secretion. Ovarian estradiol serves to set the neutral trigger for the preovulatory gonadotropin surge, while progesterone from both the adrenal and the ovary serves to (1) initiate, (2) synchronize, (3) potentiate and (4) limit the preovulatory LH surge to a single day. Administration of RU486 or the progesterone synthesis inhibitor, trilostane, on proestrous morning attenuated the preovulatory LH surge. Adrenal progesterone appears to play a role in potentiating the LH surge since RU486 still effectively decreased the LH surge even in animals ovariectomized at 0800 h on proestrus. The administration of ACTH to estrogen-primed ovariectomized (ovx) immature rats caused a LH and FSH surge 6 h later, demonstrating that upon proper stimulation, the adrenal can induce gonadotropin surges. The effect was specific for ACTH, required estrogen priming, and was blocked by adrenalectomy or RU486, but not by ovariectomy. Certain corticosteroids, most notably deoxycorticosterone and triamcinolone acetonide, were found to possess "progestin-like" activity in the induction of LH and FSH surges in estrogen-primed ovx rats. In contrast, corticosterone and dexamethasone caused a preferential release of FSH, but not LH. Progesterone-induced surges of LH and FSH appear to require an intact N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) neurotransmission line, since administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist, MK801, blocked the ability of progesterone to induce LH and FSH surges. Similarly, NMDA neurotransmission appears to be a critical component in the expression of the preovulatory gonadotropin surge since administration of MK801 during the critical period significantly diminished the LH and PRL surge in the cycling adult rat. FSH levels were lowered by MK801 treatment, but the effect was not statistically significant. The progesterone-induced gonadotropin surge appears to also involve mediation through NPY and catecholamine systems. Immediately preceding the onset of the LH and FSH surge in progesterone-treated estrogen-primed ovx. rats, there was a significant elevation of MBH and POA GnRH and NPY levels, which was followed by a significant fall at the onset of the LH surge. The effect of progesterone on inducing LH and FSH surges also appears to involve α1 and α2 adrenergic neuron activation since prazosin and yohimbine (α1 and 2 blockers, respectively) but not propranolol (a β-blocker) abolished the ability of progesterone to induce LH and FSH surges. Progesterone also caused a dose-dependent decrease in occupied nuclear estradiol receptors in the pituitary. This effect may be important in the action of preovulatory progesterone to limit the proestrous LH surge to a single day since it could aid in extinguishing the biological activity of estradiol through down regulation of its receptor. In summary, the initiation and expression of the preovulatory gonadotropin surge is achieved through complex interactions of both ovarian and adrenal steroids and involves activation of a neurotransmission line in the brain whose components include (but are not limited to) NMDA receptors and excitatory amino acid transmitter neurons, adrenergic neurons and NPY-containing neurons which serve to regulate GnRH neuron secretory activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-513
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number3-8
StatePublished - Mar 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Interaction between ovarian and adrenal steroids in the regulation of gonadotropin secretion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this