An ovulatory stimulus induces the rapid and dramatic increase in progesterone synthesis by the primate ovarian follicle. However, little is known about the early events leading to the shift from estrogen to progesterone production. Because steroidogenesis represents an aspect of cholesterol metabolism, it was hypothesized that transcription factors regulating cholesterol balance would be among the earliest to change in response to an ovulatory stimulus. Granulosa cells were isolated from rhesus monkey follicles following controlled ovarian stimulation protocols before or up to 24 hr after an ovulatory human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) bolus. The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARG) and the liver X receptors [nuclear receptor (NR)1H2, NR1H3] decreased within 3 hr of hCG, as did the reverse cholesterol transporters ATP-binding cassette (ABC)A1 and ABCG1. Treatment of granulosa cells isolated before an ovulatory stimulus with hCG and rosiglitizone resulted in an increase in NR1H3 and ABCG1, and decreased steroidogenic acute regulatory (STAR) protein and scavenger receptor-BI (SCARB1). A liver X receptor agonist attenuated hCG-induced progesterone synthesis in vitro and increased the expression of ABCA1 and ABCG1, and suppressed STAR, P450 side-chain cleavage A1, hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 3B, and SCARB1. These data suggest that an initial action of LH/CG on the primate preovulatory follicle is to rapidly reduce the expression of PPARG, resulting in reduced NR1H3 with the consequence shifting the balance from cholesterol efflux via ABCA1 and ABCG1 to cholesterol uptake (SCARB1) and metabolism (STAR, P450 side-chain cleavage A1, hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 3B). That the regulation of PPARG and the liver X receptors occurs within 3 hr strongly indicates that early events in the primate luteinizing follicle are critical to successful ovulation and luteal formation.
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