The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) mediates the toxicity of a variety of environmental chemicals. Although little is known about the physiological role of the AHR, studies suggest that it plays an important role in regulating ovulation because Ahr deficient (AhRKO) mice have a reduced number of ovulations compared to wild-type (WT) mice. The reasons for the reduced ability of AhRKO mice to ovulate are unknown. Normal ovulation, however, requires estrous cyclicity, appropriate luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, and LH and FSH responsiveness. Thus, the purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that Ahr deletion regulates ovulation by altering cyclicity, FSH and LH levels, follicle-stimulating hormone receptor (Fshr) and luteinizing hormone receptor (Lhcgr) levels and/or gonadotropin responsiveness. The data indicate that AhRKO and WT mice have similar levels of FSH and LH, but AhRKO mice have reduced Fshr and Lhcgr mRNA levels compared to WT mice. Furthermore, AhRKO ovaries contain fewer corpora lutea compared to WT ovaries after 5 IU equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) treatment. Lastly, both AhRKO and WT mice ovulate a similar number of eggs in response to 5 IU human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), but AhRKO mice ovulate fewer eggs than WT mice in response to 2.5 IU and 1.25 IU hCG. Collectively, these data indicate that AhRKO follicles have a reduced capacity to ovulate compared to WT follicles and that this is due to reduced responsiveness to gonadotropins. Thus, in addition to mediating toxicity of environmental chemicals, the Ahr is required for normal ovulation.
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