Inhibin A and inhibin B are related dimeric protein hormones and endocrine regulators of the reproductive axis. Specifically, inhibin inhibits FSH secretion from the anterior pituitary. The inhibins are synthesized by the gonads and are themselves modulated by FSH. Although the activity of these ligands has been well characterized, the circulating concentrations of dimeric inhibin A and dimeric inhibin B have not previously been reported for the rat. Our group examined the serum concentration of inhibin A and inhibin B in normally cycling female rats, male rats, and in gonadectomized animals. Both inhibin isoforms are detected in intact female rat serum. Interestingly, inhibin B, but not inhibin A, is detected in intact male rat serum. Neither inhibin isoform is detected in long-term castrate female or male rats. In normally cycling female rats, inhibin A was low on the morning of metestrus and rose steadily to a peak on proestrus. In contrast, inhibin B was elevated on the mornings of metestrus, diestrus, and proestrus. Both ligands persisted in the serum until proestrus evening. Serum inhibins then declined beginning at 2100 h (inhibin A) or 1800 h (inhibin B) on proestrus, and the concentrations reached a nadir on the morning of estrus (0600 h). The nadir coincided with the peak of the secondary FSH surge. Both inhibins rebounded later on the morning of estrus. The results of this study demonstrate that dimeric, ovarian-derived inhibin A and inhibin B circulate in the female rat. The inverse relationship of the inhibins during the secondary FSH surge is consistent with the hypothesis that they participate in the regulation of reproductive cyclicity. The differing patterns of inhibin A and inhibin B during the period of follicular development on metestrus and diestrus suggest different follicle sources or regulation of these molecules during this period. We further demonstrate that inhibin B is the dominant form of FSH regulating protein in the male rat.
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