We studied the effects of calcium (Ca2+) ions in progesterone (P) production by separated small and large luteal cells. Corpora lutea were collected from 31 heifers between days 10 and 12 of the estrous cycle. Purified small and large cells were obtained by unit gravity sedimentation and flow cytometry. P accumulation in cells plus media was determined after incubating 1 × 105 small and 5 × 103 large cells for 2 and 4 h respectively. Removal of Ca2+ from the medium did not influence basal P production in the small cells (P > 0.05). However, stimulation of P by luteinizing hormone (LH), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), 8-bromo-cyclic 3',5' adenosine monophosphate (8-Br-cAMP) and prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) was impaired (P < 0.05) by low Ca2+ concentrations. LH and PGE2-stimulated cAMP production was not altered by low extracellular Ca2+ concentrations, and PGF2α had no effect on cAMP. In contrast, basal as well as LH and forskolin-stimulated P production were attenuated (P < 0.05) in Ca2+-deflcient medium in the large cells. However, P production stimulated by 8-Br-cAMP was not altered in Ca2+-deficient medium. Steroidogenesis in large cells was also dependent on intracellular Ca2+, since 8-N, N-diethylamineocytyl-3,4,5-trimethoxybenzoate (TMB-8), an inhibitor of intracellular Ca2+ release and/or action, suppressed (P < 0.05) basal, LH and 8-Br-cAMP stimulated P. In contrast, basal P in small cells was not altered by TMB-8; whereas LH-stimulated P was reduced 2-fold (P < 0.05). The calcium ionophore, A23187, inhibited LH-stimulated P in small cells and both basal and agonist-stimulated P in large cells. These studies show that basal P production in small cells does not require Ca2+ ions, while hormone-stimulated P production in small cells and both basal and hormone-stimulated P in large cells do require Ca2+. The inhibitory effect of Ca2+ ion removal was exerted prior to the generation of cAMP in the large cells, but distal to cAMP generation in hormone-stimulated small cells. The calmodulin/protein kinase C antagonist, W-7, also inhibited both basal and hormone-stimulated P production in both small and large luteal cells, indicating that P production in luteal cells also involves Ca2+-calmodulin/protein kinase C-dependent mechanisms.
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