31 October 2002
Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are compounds which may function as agonists or antagonists depending upon the target tissue. This study compares the actions of different SERMs on luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion, and on gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) self-priming in the rat. To do this, 4-day cyclic rats were injected twice, on day 2 (metestrus) and day 3 of the estrous cycle, with one of the following SERMs: 0.25 mg ICI 182,780, 3 mg tamoxifen (TX), LY139481-HCl or LY117018-HCl, or 0.5 mg RU58668. Control rats were given subcutaneous injections of 0.2 ml oil. On the morning of day 4 (proestrus in controls), rats from each group were either injected intraperitoneally with pentobarbital (40 mg/kg) for in vivo study or decapitated and their pituitaries collected for incubation (in vitro study). Additionally, pituitaries taken on each day of the estrous cycle from control rats as well as on day 4 from SERM-treated rats were processed for immunohistochemical determination of the estrogen receptor-α (ERα) gonadotrope. The plasma concentration or accumulation of LH in the medium was determined after 1 h (basal secretion). Thereafter, an intravenous bolus of GnRH (50 ng/0.5 ml/100 g BW) or 10<sup>–8</sup> M GnRH was injected or added to the medium, respectively. After 1 h of GnRH exposure, blood or medium were taken, and another challenge of GnRH was made. At the end of the 3rd h of the experiment, blood or medium samples were taken again and the LH plasma concentration or accumulation in the medium were determined. All SERM treatments reduced uterus weight and decreased basal and stimulated LH secretion. Also, on day 4, rats treated with any SERM other than TX showed vaginal smears infiltrated by leukocytes and a reduction in GnRH self-priming. TX-treated rats exhibited cornified vaginal smears and an estrogenic effect on GnRH self-priming. Moreover, 15-min exposure to two consecutive GnRH (10<sup>–8</sup> M) challenges 1 h apart in incubated pituitaries with estradiol (E<sub>2</sub>, 10<sup>–8</sup> M), TX (10<sup>–7</sup> M), E<sub>2</sub> + TX, or medium alone form ovariectomized rats injected for 3 days with estradiol benzoate (25 µg), TX (3 mg), estradiol benzoate + TX, or 0.2 ml oil, respectively, showed that TX increased GnRH self-priming, as did E<sub>2</sub>, whereas it reduced the E<sub>2</sub>-sensitizing effect on GnRH-stimulated LH secretion and cancelled the E<sub>2</sub>-dependent GnRH self-priming. All SERMs prevented the physiological nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of ERα exhibited during proestrus in control rats, and TX, in addition, induced a significantly larger number of gonadotropes displaying strong cytosolic immunosignals corresponding to ERα than the rest of the experimental groups. Overall, data from this study indicated that, in contrast to the general antagonistic effect of the tested SERMs, TX seemed to display both selective agonist and antagonist activity at the gonadotrope level and on GnRH self-priming of LH secretion respectively.