Although factors that regulate cAMP and steroid production in granulosa cells of hen preovulatory follicles have been well studied, much less is known of the mechanisms that control steroidogenesis in the adjacent thecal layer. These studies were conducted to examine the involvement and interaction of cAMP and protein kinase-C in modulating androstenedione output from isolated ovarian thecal cells collected from the second largest preovulatory follicle. Treatment of thecal cells with ovine LH (0.01-100 ng/tube) caused a dose-dependent increase in androstenedione secretion. Although coincubation of cells with the phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-l-methylxanthine (0.1 DIM) potentiated the effects of LH on steroid production, cAMP levels increased only in response to the higher doses of LH (10-100 ng/tube). Small but significant increases in cAMP accumulation and androstenedione production were observed in response to vasoactive intestinal peptide (0.1 and 1.0 μM), but not to 100 ng/tube chicken FSH, in the presence of 0.1 mM 3-isobutyl-l-methylxanthine. Treatment of thecal cells with cholera toxin (0.001-100 ng/tube) or forskolin (0.001-10 HM) resulted in a dose-dependent increase in cellular cAMP levels and androstenedione secretion. Thecal cell androstenedione production was also stimulated by the cAMP analog 8-bromo-cAMP (0.1-1.0 mM). Incubation of thecal cells with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA; 0.32-162 nM) or l-oleoyl-2-acetylglycerol (OAG; 2.5-126 μM) increased basal steroidogenesis (progesterone and androstenedione production) in the absence of a rise in cAMP levels. By contrast, the stimulatory effects of 1 ng/tube LH on androstenedione, but not progesterone, production were attenuated by the presence of PMA (3.2-162 nM) or OAG (25-126 μM). Only a high concentration of OAG (126 μM) suppressed cAMP accumulation stimulated by LH (50 ng/tube). Phorbol ester treatment (32-162 nM PMA) also inhibited androstenedione production in thecal cells stimulated by the presence of 8- bromo-cAMP (1 mM), indicating a post-cAMP effect of protein kinase-C activity on steroidogenesis. In contrast to the effects of PMA, phorbol 13-monoacetate (162 nM), a nontumor-promoting analog of PMA which does not activate protein kinase-C, did not alter basal steroidogenesis, nor did it affect androstenedione secretion stimulated by LH or 8-bromo-cAMP. Data from the present studies indicate that the adenylyl cyclase-cAMP pathway can mediate the induction of thecal cell steroidogenesis by extracellular signals (i.e. LH and vasoactive intestinal peptide), whereas activated protein kinase-C can both stimulate and inhibit androstenedione production, depending upon the hormonal environment. Furthermore, evidence suggests that modulation of hormone-induced androgen production by protein kinase-C occurs primarily distal to the formation of cAMP, most likely via inhibition of Cl7,20-lyase activity.
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