The ERK Signaling Cascade Inhibits Gonadotropin-Stimulated Steroidogenesis

Author(s): Rony Seger, Tamar Hanoch, Revital Rosenberg, Ada Dantes, Wolfgang E. Merz, Jerome F. Strauss III, Abraham Amsterdam

The response of granulosa cells to Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle- Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is mediated mainly by cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) signaling. Notably, the activity of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling cascade is elevated in response to these stimuli as well. We studied the involvement of the ERK cascade in LH- and FSH-induced steroidogenesis in two granulosa-derived cell lines, rLHR-4 and rFSHR-17, respectively. We found that stimulation of these cells with the appropriate gonadotropin induced ERK activation as well as progesterone production downstream of PKA. Inhibition of ERK activity enhanced gonadotropin-stimulated progesterone production, which was correlated with increased expression of the Steroidogenic Acute Regulatory Protein (StAR), a key regulator of progesterone synthesis. Therefore, it is likely that gonadotropin-stimulated progesterone formation is regulated by a pathway that includes PKA and StAR, and this process is down-regulated by ERK, due to attenuation of StAR expression. Our results suggest that activation of PKA signaling by gonadotropins not only induces steroidogenesis but also activates down-regulation machinery involving the ERK cascade. The activation of ERK by gonadotropins as well as by other agents may be a key mechanism for the modulation of gonadotropin-induced steroidogenesis.

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