An increased intraovarian synthesis of nerve growth factor and its low affinity receptor is a principal component of steroid-induced polycystic ovary in the rat
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A form of polycystic ovary (PCO) resembling some aspects of the human PCO syndrome can be induced in rats by a single injection of estradiol valerate (EV). An increase in sympathetic outflow to the ovary precedes, by several weeks, the appearance of cysts, suggesting the involvement of a neurogenic component in the pathology of this ovarian dysfunction. The present study was carried out to test the hypotheses that this change in sympathetic tone is related to an augmented production of ovarian nerve growth factor (NGF), and that this abnormally elevated production of NGF contributes to the formation of ovarian cysts induced by EV. Injection of the steroid resulted in increased intraovarian synthesis of NGF and its low affinity receptor, p75 NGFR. The increase was maximal 30 days after EV, coinciding with the elevation in sympathetic tone to the ovary and preceding the appearance of follicular cysts. Intraovarian injections of the retrograde tracer fluorogold combined with in situ hybridization to detect tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) messenger RNA-containing neurons in the celiac ganglion revealed that these changes in NGF/p75 NGFR synthesis are accompanied by selective activation of noradrenergic neurons projecting to the ovary. The levels of RBT2 messenger RNA, which encodes a beta-tubulin presumably involved in slow axonal transport, were markedly elevated, indicating that EV-induced formation of ovarian cysts is preceded by functional activation of celiac ganglion neurons, including those innervating the ovary. Intraovarian administration of a neutralizing antiserum to NGF in conjunction with an antisense oligodeoxynucleotide to p75 NGFR, via Alzet osmotic minipumps, restored estrous cyclicity and ovulatory capacity in a majority of EV-treated rats. These functional changes were accompanied by restoration of the number of antral follicles per ovary that had been depleted by EV and a significant reduction in the number of both precystic follicles and follicular cysts. The results indicate that the hyperactivation of ovarian sympathetic nerves seen in EV-induced PCO is related to an overproduction of NGF and its low affinity receptor in the gland. They also suggest that activation of this neurotrophic-neurogenic regulatory loop is a component of the pathological process by which EV induces cyst formation and anovulation in rodents. The possibility exists that a similar alteration in neurotrophic input to the ovary contributes to the etiology and/or maintenance of the PCO syndrome in humans.