Characterization of gonadotropin receptors Fshr and Lhr in Japanese medaka, Oryzias latipes

Susann Burow, Naama Mizrahi, Gersende Maugars, Kristine von Krogh, Rasoul Nourizadeh-Lillabadi, Lian Hollander-Cohen, Michal Shpilman, Ishwar Atre, Finn Arne Weltzien, Berta Levavi-Sivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reproduction in vertebrates is controlled by the brain-pituitary-gonad axis, where the two gonadotropins follicle-stimulating hormone (Fsh) and luteinizing hormone (Lh) play vital parts by activating their cognate receptors in the gonads. The main purpose of this work was to study intra- and interspecies ligand promiscuity of teleost gonadotropin receptors, since teleost receptor specificity is unclear, in contrast to mammalian receptors. Receptor activation was investigated by transfecting COS-7 cells with either Fsh receptor (mdFshr, tiFshr) or Lh receptor (mdLhr, tiLhr), and tested for activation by recombinant homologous and heterologous ligands (mdFshβα, mdLhβα, tiFshβα, tiLhβα) from two representative fish orders, Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes, Beloniformes) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus, Cichliformes). Results showed that each gonadotropin preferentially activates its own cognate receptor. Cross-reactivity was detected to some extent as mdFshβα was able to activate the mdLhr, and mdLhβα the mdFshr. Medaka pituitary extract (MPE) stimulated CRE-LUC activity in COS-7 cells expressing mdlhr, but could not stimulate cells expressing mdfshr. Recombinant tiLhβα, tiFshβα and tilapia pituitary extract (TPE) could activate the mdLhr, suggesting cross-species reactivity for mdLhr. Cross-species reactivity was also detected for mdFshr due to activation by tiFshβα, tiLhβα, and TPE, as well as for tiFshr and tiLhr due to stimulation by mdFshβα, mdLhβα, and MPE. Tissue distribution analysis of gene expression revealed that medaka receptors, fshr and lhr, are highly expressed in both ovary and testis. High expression levels were found for lhr also in brain, while fshr was expressed at low levels. Both fshr and lhr mRNA levels increased significantly during testis development. Amino acid sequence alignment and three-dimensional modelling of ligands and receptors highlighted conserved beta sheet domains of both Fsh and Lh between Japanese medaka and Nile tilapia. It also showed a higher structural homology and similarity of transmembrane regions of Lhr between both species, in contrast to Fshr, possibly related to the substitution of the conserved cysteine residue in the transmembrane domain 6 in medaka Fshr with glycine. Taken together, this is the first characterization of medaka Fshr and Lhr using homologous ligands, enabling to better understand teleost hormone-receptor interactions and specificities. The data suggest partial ligand promiscuity and cross-species reactivity between gonadotropins and their receptors in medaka and tilapia.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number113276
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Follicle-stimulating hormone
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone receptor
  • Luteinizing hormone
  • Luteinizing hormone receptor
  • Protein structure
  • Receptor-ligand interaction
  • Transactivation assay

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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