The regulatory role of cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase(s) and cyclic AMP metabolism in relation to progesterone production by gonadotropins has been studied in isolated rat ovarian cells. Low concentrations of choriogonadotropin (0.4–5ng/ml) increased steroid production without any detectable increase in cyclic AMP, when experiments were carried out in the absence of phosphodiesterase inhibitors. The concentration of choriogonadotropin (10ng/ml) that stimulated progesterone synthesis maximally resulted in a minimal increase in cyclic AMP accumulation and choriogonadotropin binding. Choriogonadotropin at a concentration of 10ng/ml and higher, however, significantly stimulated protein kinase activity and reached a maximum between 250 and 1000ng of hormone/ml. Higher concentrations (50–2500ng/ml) of choriogonadotropin caused an increase in endogenous cyclic AMP, and this increase preceded the increase in steroid synthesis. Analysis of dose–response relationships of gonadotropin-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation, progesterone production and protein kinase activity revealed a correlation between these responses over a wide concentration range when experiments were performed in the presence of 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine. The phosphodiesterase inhibitors papaverine, theophylline and 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine each stimulated steroid production in a dose-dependent manner. Incubation of ovarian cells with dibutyryl cyclic AMP or 8-bromo cyclic AMP mimicked the steroidogenic action of gonadotropins and this effect was dependent on both incubation time and nucleotide concentration. Maximum stimulation was obtained with 2mm-dibutyryl cyclic AMP and 8-bromo cyclic AMP, and this increase was close to that produced by a maximally stimulating dose of choriogonadotropin. Other 8-substituted derivatives such as 8-hydroxy cyclic AMP and 8-isopropylthio cyclic AMP, which were less susceptible to phosphodiesterase action, also effectively stimulated steroidogenesis. The uptake and metabolism of cyclic [3H]AMP in ovarian cells was also studied in relation to steroidogenesis. When ovarian cells were incubated for 2h in the presence of increasing concentrations of cyclic [3H]AMP, the radioactivity associated with the cells increased almost linearly up to 250μm-cyclic [3H]AMP concentration in the incubation medium. The 3H label in the cellular extract was recovered mainly in the forms ATP, ADP, AMP, adenosine and inosine, with cyclic AMP accounting for less than 1% of the total tissue radioactivity. Incubation of cyclic AMP in vitro with ovarian cells resulted in a rapid breakdown of the nucleotide in the medium. The degradation products in the medium have been identified as AMP, adenosine and inosine. The rapid degradation of cyclic AMP by phosphodiesterase(s) makes it difficult to correlate changes in cyclic AMP concentrations with steroidogenesis. These observations thus provide an explanation for the previously observed lack of cyclic AMP accumulation under conditions in which low doses of choriogonadotropin stimulated steroidogenesis without any detectable changes in cyclic AMP accumulation.

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