Follistatin suppresses steroid-enhanced follicle-stimulating hormone release in vitro in rats

Brenda L. Bohnsack, Marta Szabo, Signe M. Kilen, Denise H.Y. Tam, Neena B. Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Previous in vitro and in vivo studies from our laboratory showed that progesterone (P4), corticosterone (B), and testosterone (T) increase intracellular content and release of FSH in the anterior pituitary. Activin (Act) and inhibin (Inh) are structurally related proteins with antagonistic actions, as Act stimulates and Inh inhibits FSH secretion from the anterior pituitary. Together with follistatin (FS), a protein that bioneutralizes Act, they form an autocrine-paracrine loop in the anterior pituitary that tightly regulates FSH secretion. The objective of the present study was to test the hypothesis that P4, B, and T modulate this autocrine-paracrine loop to favor increased FSH secretion. If Act were to mediate steroid-induced FSH release, FS would be expected to block these effects. To test this interaction, cell cultures were prepared from anterior pituitaries of male and female rats, and treated with Act, B, P4, or T in the absence or presence of FS. Act, B, P4, and T increased FSH release; FS suppressed both basal and Act- and steroid- stimulated FSH release to approximately 50% below basal levels. Cell cultures from anterior pituitary of female rats were used to compare the interaction of incremental concentrations of FS on dose-related Act- and P4-stimulated FSH release. With increasing concentrations of Act, the FS-induced suppression of FSH release was attenuated and eventually abolished; in contrast, maximally stimulatory concentrations of P4 did not fully overcome the FS-induced suppression of FSH release. The effects of P4, B, and Act in the presence and absence of estradiol on steady-state mRNA levels of FSHβ, Actβ(B), and FS were determined in primary pituitary cell cultures from metestrous female rats by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Whereas Act, P4, B increased FSHβ mRNA levels, only Act raised the level of FS mRNA, and neither steroid increased Actβ(B) mRNA. The results support the hypothesis that endogenous Act is a common mediator of the action of P4, B, and T in the rat primary anterior pituitary cell culture. We conclude that the stimulation of FSH release and intracellular content in the gonadotroph by P4, B, and T is mediated, in part, by Act and involves modulation of a tightly regulated Act/FS autocrine-paracrine loop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-641
Number of pages6
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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