Continuous exposure to LHRH or its agonistic analogs results in a reduction of LHRH receptor sites and messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts as well as in desensitization of the pituitary gonadotropes. To determine, whether LHRH antagonists might be similar in this respect to the agonists, we treated male rats for 4 weeks with daily sc injections of LHRH antagonist [Ac-D- Nal2,Phe(4Cl)2,D-Pal(3)3, D-Cit6,D-Ala10]LHRH (Cetrorelix acetate) or LHRH agonist, [D-Trp6]LHRH, in doses of 100 μg/animal-day. Another group of rats received a single im injection of 4.5 mg Cetrorelix pamoate depot, a sustained delivery formulation of the LHRH antagonist. An iv stimulation test with LHRH (200 ng/rat) was performed after 4 weeks of treatment. The rats were killed, and pituitary LHRH receptor characteristics were measured by RRA. To examine the effect of LHRH antagonist treatment on the expression of the pituitary LHRH receptor gene, some of the rats injected with Cetrorelix pamoate depot were killed after 2 weeks, and levels of LHRH receptor mRNA were determined by Northern blot and dot blot hybridization to a 32P- labeled rat complementary DNA probe. Our data show that LHRH-stimulated LH secretion at 30 min was suppressed by approximately 33% (P < 0.01) in rats pretreated with [D-Trp6]LHRH compared to that in animals injected with LHRH alone. Pretreatment of the rats with the LHRH antagonist suppressed the LH response to LHRH more markedly; the LH levels at 30 min were decreased by 89.8% and 96% in groups treated with Cetrorelix acetate and Cetrorelix pamoate depot, respectively. The testosterone response was virtually abolished in groups receiving Cetrorelix. The concentration of pituitary receptors for LHRH fell by 69% in the [D-Trp6]LHRH group, whereas the reductions in the Cetrorelix acetate group and in the group that received Cetrorelix pamoate depot were 77% and 82%, respectively. Treatment with Cetrorelix pamoate depot led to a 75-80% decrease in the levels of 5.0- and 4.5-kilobase forms of LHRH receptor mRNA compared to those in the control group. Dot blot analysis also showed 83% reduction in the mRNA for LHRH receptor. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that prolonged administration of LHRH antagonists such as Cetrorelix causes an impairment of gonadotropin secretion and a marked decrease in the levels of LHRH receptors as well as in the expression of the LHRH receptor gene. Thus, the down-regulation of pituitary LHRH receptors produced by LHRH antagonists appears to be similar to that resulting from the agonists.
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