Role of ERK1/2 in the differential synthesis of progesterone and estradiol by granulosa cells

R. Kelly Moore, Fumio Otsuka, Shunichi Shimasaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


A major concept in mammalian ovarian physiology is that follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) activates the granulosa cells (GCs) in the Graafian follicle to selectively produce estradiol, but not progesterone, during the follicular phase of the menstrual or estrous cycle. However, given the fact that FSH can induce production of both estradiol and progesterone by GCs cultured in vitro, it has been postulated for a long time that there is a factor present in the ovary that selectively prevents FSH-induced progesterone production. Here, we provide evidence that two members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase family, extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1 and -2 (ERK1/2) can differentially regulate FSH-stimulated estradiol and progesterone production. Using primary rat GCs from early antral follicles cultured in serum-free medium for 48 h, we found that the addition of a specific inhibitor of ERK1/2 activation, U0126, caused the attenuation or enhancement of FSH-induced progesterone or estradiol production, respectively, in a dose-dependent manner. Throughout the 48-h culture period in this culture system ERK1/2 molecules in their activated state (phospho-ERK1/2) were clearly detectable in GCs exposed to FSH. The addition of U0126 caused a decrease in the levels of phosphorylated but not unphosphorylated ERK1/2 which was maintained throughout the 48-h culture, suggesting that U0126 was continuously active to inhibit the phosphorylation of ERK1/2. The divergent regulation of FSH-induced progesterone and estradiol synthesis by U0126 was further supported by demonstrating that U0126 inhibits and stimulates FSH-induced mRNA levels of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and P450 aromatase, respectively. Collectively, this study clearly identified ERK1/2 as the first intracellular signaling molecules that differentially regulate FSH-induced progesterone and estradiol synthesis in GCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-800
Number of pages5
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 14 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of ERK1/2 in the differential synthesis of progesterone and estradiol by granulosa cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this