Theca-specific estrogen receptor-α knockout mice lose fertility prematurely

Sungeun Lee, Dong Wook Kang, Susan Hudgins-Spivey, Andree Krust, Eun Young Lee, Youngbum Koo, Yongpil Cheon, Chan Gye Myung, Pierre Chambon, Che Myong Ko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Estrogen receptor-α(Esr1) mediates estrogen action in regulating at all levels of the hypothalamicpituitary-ovarian axis. Whereas the importance of Esr1 in hypothalamus and pituitary has been demonstrated by loss of fertility in the neuron- and pituitary-specific Esr1 knockout mice, whether Esr1 plays a critical role in the ovary remains to be determined. In the ovary, Esr1 is mainly expressed in the theca/interstitial cells and germinal epithelium and thus is believed to mediate estrogen action in these cells. In this study, we assessed the importance of Esr1 in the ovarian theca cells in regulating female reproduction. The Cre-LoxP approach was used to selectively delete the Esr1 gene in the theca cells, and the reproductive consequence of the deletion was measured. Adolescent theca-specific Esr1 knockout (thEsr1KO) mice (<4 months of age) are fertile and cycling. However, they begin to display an erratic pattern of estrous cycles and become infertile before they reach the age of 6 months. The ovaries of thEsr1KOmice (≥4 months) have fewer corpora lutea but more antral follicles than the age-matching wild-type mice. The numbers of 17-hydroxylase-expressing cells are largely increased in the interstitium of the thEsr1KO mouse ovary. Interestingly, whereas basal levels of serum testosterone and FSH were mildly elevated, LH level was either markedly lower or undetectable in the thEsr1KO mice. When superstimulated by exogenous gonadotropins, thEsr1KO mice released significantly fewer oocytes that wild-type littermates and developed multiple hemorrhagic cysts. Taken together, this study demonstrates that theca Esr1 plays a critical role in regulating female reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3855-3862
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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