Meiosis in the amphibian oocyte is normally initiated by gonadotropins, which stimulate follicle cells to secret progesterone. The progesterone- induced G2/M transition in the amphibian oocyte was the first well-defined example of asteroid effect at the plasma membrane, since it could be shown that exogenous, but not injected, progesterone induced meiosis and that many of the progesterone-induced changes associated with meiosis occurred in enucleated oocytes. We find that [3H]progesterone binding to isolated plasma membranes of Rana pipiens oocytes is saturable, specific and temperature- dependent. Photoaffinity labeling with the synthetic progestin [3H]R5020 followed by gel electrophoresis demonstrated progestin binding to both 80 and 110 kDa proteins in the oocyte cytosol, whereas only the 110 kDa R5020 binding protein was present in the oocyte plasma membrane. We have shown that progesterone acts at Rana oocyte plasma membrane receptors within seconds to release a cascade of lipid messengers. Membrane-receptor binding causes the successive activation of: 1) N-methyltransferases, which convert phosphatidylethanolamine to phosphatidylcholine (PC); 2) an exchange reaction between PC and ceramide to form sphingomyelin (SM) and 1,2-diacylglycerol (DAG); 3) phospholipase D/phosphatidate phosphohydrolase, releasing a second DAG transient; and 4) phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C, generating inositol trisphosphate and a third DAG transient. Within minutes, diglyceride kinase converts newly formed DAG species to phosphatidic acid, turning off the successive DAG signals. A transient fall (0-30 s) in intracellular ceramide is followed (within 1-2 min) by a sustained rise in intracellular ceramide lasting 3-4 h. This ceramide may be significant in later cyclin-dependent steps. We conclude that the initial action of progesterone at its plasma membrane receptor triggers a series of enzyme activations that modify the membrane and release multiple DAG species.
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