Many women with hyperandrogenemia suffer from irregular menses and infertility. However, it is unknown whether androgens directly affect reproduction. Since animal models of hyperandrogenemia-induced infertility are associated with obesity, which may impact reproductive function, we have created a lean mouse model of elevated androgen using implantation of low dose dihydrotestosterone (DHT) pellets to separate the effects of elevated androgen from obesity. The hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis controls reproduction. While we have demonstrated that androgen impairs ovarian function, androgen could also disrupt neuroendocrine function at the level of brain and/or pituitary to cause infertility. To understand how elevated androgens might act on pituitary gonadotropes to influence reproductive function, female mice with disruption of the androgen receptor (Ar) gene specifically in pituitary gonadotropes (PitARKO) were produced. DHT treated control mice with intact pituitary Ar (Con-DHT) exhibit disrupted estrous cyclicity and fertility with reduced pituitary responsiveness to GnRH at the level of both calcium signaling and LH secretion. These effects were ameliorated in DHT treated PitARKO mice. Calcium signaling controls GnRH regulation of LH vesicle exotocysis. Our data implicated upregulation of GEM (a voltage-dependent calcium channel inhibitor) in the pituitary as a potential mechanism for androgen’s pathological effects. These results demonstrate that gonadotrope AR, as an extra-ovarian regulator, plays an important role in reproductive pathophysiology.
Zhiqiang Wang, Mingxiao Feng, Olubusayo Awe, Yaping Ma, Mingjie Shen, Ping Xue, Rexford Ahima, Andrew Wolfe, James Segars, Sheng Wu