FSH regulates acetycholine production by ovarian granulosa cells

Artur Mayerhofer, Lars Kunz, Annette Krieger, Becky Proskocil, Eliot Spindel, Abraham Amsterdam, Gregory A. Dissen, Sergio Ojeda, Ignaz Wessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: It has been previously shown that cultured granulosa cells (GCs) derived from human ovarian preovulatory follicles contain choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), the enzyme responsible for acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis. They also produce ACh and express functional muscarinic ACh receptors. ACh can act on GCs to increase proliferation, disrupt gap junction communication, alter intracellular calcium levels, as well as expression of transcription factors, suggesting an unrecognized role of ACh in GC function. To gain further insights into the possible role of ACh in the ovary, we examined ChAT expression in the gland before and after birth, as well as in adults, and studied the regulation of ACh production by FSH. Methods: ChAT immunohistochemistry was performed using ovarian samples of different species and ages (embryonic, postnatal and adult rats and mice, including embryonic ovaries from mice null for ChAT, neonatal and adult rhesus monkeys and adult humans). ACh was measured by HPLC and/or a fluorescence based method in rat ovaries and in a FSH receptor-expressing cell line (rat GFSHR-17) cultured with or without FSH. Results: In adult rat, as well as in all other species, ovarian ChAT immunoreactivity is associated with GCs of antral follicles, but not with other structures, indicating that GCs are the only ovarian source of ACh. Indeed ACh was clearly detected in adult rat ovaries by two methods. ChAT immunoreactivity is absent from embryonic and/or neonatal ovaries (mouse/rat and monkey) and ovarian development in embryonic mice null for ChAT appears normal, suggesting that ACh is not involved in ovarian or follicular formation. Since ChAT immunoreactivity is present in GCs of large follicles and since the degree of the ChAT immunoreactivity increases as antral follicles grow, we tested whether ACh production is stimulated by FSH. Rat GIFSHR-17 cells that stably express the FSH receptor, respond to FSH with an increase in ACh production. Conclusion: ACh and ChAT are present in GCs of growing follicles and FSH, the major driving force of follicular growth, stimulates ACh production. Since ACh stimulates proliferation and differentiation processes in cultured GCs, we suggest that ACh may act in the growing ovarian follicle as a local mediator of some of the actions ascribed to FSH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalReproductive Biology and Endocrinology
StatePublished - Jul 17 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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