Leptin is an important satiety hormone and reproductive regulator and is found, along with its receptors, throughout the ovary. To date, the changes in ovarian expression of both of these proteins throughout the estrous cycle has not been studied, and the examination of protein expression has not distinguished between different forms of the receptor. In this study leptin mRNA expression in the immature gonadotropin-primed rat ovary increased 3-fold after human chorionic gonadotropin administration, followed by a dramatic increase in mRNA for both the short form (Ob-Ra) and the long form (Ob-Rb) of the leptin receptor (∼8- and 7-fold, respectively). A corresponding increase in mRNA expression of the receptor was not observed in isolated preovulatory follicles. Using immunohistochemistry, we observed protein expression of the long form of the leptin receptor (Ob-Rb) in the ovary, with high intensities observed in oocytes and endothelial cells as well as thecal cells and corpora lutea. These results suggest that ovarian expression of leptin and its receptor is regulated across the cycle by gonadotropins, with peak expression at ovulation, indicating a possible involvement in oocyte maturation, angiogenesis, follicle rupture, or subsequent corpus luteum formation.
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