SMAD3 Regulates follicle-stimulating hormone synthesis by pituitary gonadotrope cells in vivo

Yining Li, Gauthier Schang, Ulrich Boehm, Chu Xia Deng, Jonathan Graff, Daniel J. Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Pituitary follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is an essential regulator of fertility in females and of quantitatively normal spermatogenesis in males. Pituitary-derived activins are thought to act as major stimulators of FSH synthesis by gonadotrope cells. In vitro, activins signal via SMAD3, SMAD4, and forkhead box L2 (FOXL2) to regulate transcription of the FSHβ subunit gene (Fshb). Consistent with this model, gonadotrope-specific Smad4 or Foxl2 knock-out mice have greatly reduced FSH and are subfertile. The role of SMAD3 in vivo is unresolved; however, residual FSH production in Smad4 conditional knock-out mice may derive from partial compensation by SMAD3 and its ability to bind DNA in the absence of SMAD4. To test this hypothesis and determine the role of SMAD3 in FSH biosynthesis, we generated mice lacking both the SMAD3 DNA binding domain and SMAD4 specifically in gonadotropes. Conditional knock-out females were hypogonadal, acyclic, and sterile and had thread-like uteri; their ovaries lacked antral follicles and corpora lutea. Knock-out males were fertile but had reduced testis weights and epididymal sperm counts. These phenotypes were consistent with those of Fshb knock-out mice. Indeed, pituitary Fshb mRNA levels were nearly undetectable in both male and female knock-outs. In contrast, gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor mRNA levels were significantly elevated in knock-outs in both sexes. Interestingly, luteinizing hormone production was altered in a sex-specific fashion. Overall, our analyses demonstrate that SMAD3 is required for FSH synthesis in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2301-2314
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 10 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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