The follicle stimulating hormone receptor or FSH-receptor (FSHR) is a transmembrane receptor that interacts with the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and represents a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). Its activation is necessary for the hormonal functioning of FSH. FSHRs are found in the ovary, testis, and uterus.
The gene for the FSHR is found on chromosome 2
p21 in humans. The gene sequence of the FSHR consists of about 2,080 nucleotides
The FSHR consists of 695 amino acids and has a molecular mass of about 76 kDa. Like other GPCRs, the FSH-receptor possess seven membrane-spanning domains or transmembrane helices
- The extracellular domain of the receptor is glycosylated.
- The transmembrane domain contains two highly conserved cysteine residues which build disulfide bonds to stabilize the receptor structure. A highly conserved Asp-Arg-Tyr triplet motif is present and may be of importance to transmit the signal.
- The C-terminal domain is intracellular and brief, rich in serine and threonine residues for possible phosphorylation.
Ligand binding and signal transduction
Upon binding FSH externally to the membrane, a transduction of the signal takes place that activates the G protein that is bound to the receptor internally. With FSH attached, the receptor shifts conformation and thus mechanically activates the G protein, which detaches from the receptor and activates the cAMP system.
It is believed that a receptor molecule exists in a conformational equilibrium between active and inactive states. The binding of FSH to the receptor shifts the equilibrium between active and inactive receptors. FSH and FSH-agonists shift the equilibrium in favor of active states; FSH antagonists shift the equilibrium in favor of inactive states. For a cell to respond to FSH only a small percentage (~1%) of receptor sites need to be activated.
Phosphorylation by cAMP-dependent protein kinases
Cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinases (protein kinase A
) are activated by the signal chain coming from the G protein (that was activated by the FSH-receptor) via adenylate cyclase
and cyclic AMP
These protein kinases are present as tetramer
with two regulatory units and two catalytic units. Upon binding of cAMP to the regulatory units, the catalytic units are released and initiate the phosphorylation of proteins leading to the physiologic action. The cyclic AMP-regulatory dimers are degraded by phosphodiesterase
and release 5’AMP. DNA
in the cell nucleus
binds to phosphorylated proteins through the cyclic AMP response element
(CRE) which results in the activation of genes
The signal is amplified by the involvement of cAMP and the resulting phosphorylation. The process is modified by prostaglandins. Other cellular regulators are participate are the intracellular calcium concentration modified by phospholipase, nitric acid, and other growth factors.
The FSH receptor can also activate the extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK).
In a feedback mechanism, these activated kinases phosphorylate the receptor. The longer the receptor remains active, the more kinases are activated, the more receptors are phosphorylated.
In the ovary, the FSH receptor is necessary for follicular development and expressed on the granulosa cells
In the male the FSH receptor has been identified on the Sertoli cells that are critical for spermatogenesis.
The FSHR is expressed during the luteal phase in the secretory endometrium of the uterus.
refers to the increase in the number of receptor site on the membrane. Estrogen upregulates FSH receptor sites. In turn, FSH stimulates granulosa cells
to produce estrogens
. This synergistic activity of estrogen and FSH allows for follicle growth and development in the ovary.
The FSHR become desensitized when exposed to FSH for some time. A key reaction of this downregulation is the phosphorylation
of the intracellular (or cytoplasmic
) receptor domain by protein kinases
. This process uncouples Gs protein from the FSHR. Another way to desensitize is to uncouple the regulatory and catalytic units of the cAMP system.
refers to the decrease in the number of receptor sites. This can be accomplished by metabolizing bound FSHR sites. The bound FSH-receptor complex is brought by lateral migration to a "coated pit" where such units are concentrated and then stabilized by a framework of clathrins
. A pinched-off coated pit is internalized and degraded by lysosomes
. Proteins may be metabolized or the receptor can be recycled. Use of long-acting agonists will downregulate the receptor population.
Antibodies to FSHR can interfere with FSHR activity.
Some patients with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome
may have mutations
in the gene for FSHR making them more sensitive to gonadotropin stimulation.
Women with 46 XX gonadal dysgenesis experience primary amenorrhea with hypergonadotropic hypogonadism. There are forms of 46 xx gonadal dysgenesis where abnormalities in the FSH-receptor have been reported and are thought to be the cause of the hypogonadism.
Polymorphism may affect FSH receptor populations and lead to poorer responses in infertile women who receive FSH medication for IVF.
Alfred G. Gilman
and Martin Rodbell
received the 1994 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology
for the discovery of the G Protein System.