Judge, jury and executioner: the auto-regulation of luteal function.

G. D. Niswender, T. L. Davis, R. J. Griffith, R. L. Bogan, K. Monser, R. C. Bott, J. E. Bruemmer, T. M. Nett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Experiments were conducted to further our understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate luteal function in ewes. Inhibition of protein kinase A (PKA) reduced (P < 0.05) secretion of progesterone from both small and large steroidogenic luteal cells. In addition, the relative phosphorylation state of steriodogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) was more than twice as high (P < 0.05) in large vs small luteal cells. Large steroidogenic luteal cells appear to contain constitutively active PKA and increased concentrations of phosphorylated StAR which play a role in the increased basal rate of secretion of progesterone. To determine if intraluteal secretion of prostaglandin (PG) F2alpha was required for luteolysis, ewes on day 10 of the estrous cycle received intraluteal implants of a biodegradable polymer containing 0, 1 or 10 mg of indomethacin, to prevent intraluteal synthesis of PGF2alpha. On day 18, luteal weights in ewes receiving 1 mg of indomethacin were greater (P < 0.05) than controls and those receiving 10 mg were greater (P < 0.05) than either of the other two groups. Concentrations of progesterone in serum were also increased (P < 0.05) from days 13 to 16 of the estrous cycle in ewes receiving 10 mg of indomethacin. Although not required for decreased production of progesterone at the end of the cycle, intraluteal secretion of PGF2alpha appears to be required for normal luteolysis. To ascertain if oxytocin mediates the indirect effects of PGF2alpha on small luteal cells, the effects of 0, 0.1, 1 or 10 mM oxytocin on intracellular concentrations of calcium were quantified. There was a dose-dependent increase (P < 0.05) in the number of small luteal cells responding to oxytocin. Thus, oxytocin induces increased calcium levels and perhaps apoptotic cell death in small luteal cells. Concentrations of progesterone, similar to those present in corpora lutea (approximately 30 microg/g), prevented the increased intracellular concentrations of calcium (P < 0.05) stimulated by oxytocin in small cells. In large luteal cells the response to progesterone was variable. There was no consistent effect of high quantities of estradiol, testosterone or cortisol in either cell type. It was concluded that normal luteal concentrations of progesterone prevent the oxytocin and perhaps the PGF2alpha-induced increase in the number of small and large luteal cells which respond to these hormones with increased intracellular concentrations of calcium. In summary, large ovine luteal cells produce high basal levels of progesterone, at least in part, due to a constituitively active form of PKA and an enhanced phosphorylation state of StAR. During luteolysis PGF2alpha of uterine origin reduces the secretion of progesterone from the corpus luteum, but intraluteal production of PGF2alpha is required for normal luteolysis. Binding of PGF2alpha to receptors on large luteal cells stimulates the secretion of oxytocin which appears to activate PKC and may also inhibit steroidogenesis in small luteal cells. PGF2alpha also activates COX-2 in large luteal cells which leads to secretion of PGF2alpha. Once intraluteal concentrations of progesterone have decreased, oxytocin binding to its receptors on small luteal cells also results in increased levels of intracellular calcium and presumably apoptosis. Increased secretion of PGF2alpha from large luteal cells activates calcium channels which likely results in apoptotic death of this cell type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-206
Number of pages16
JournalSociety of Reproduction and Fertility supplement
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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