A closer look showed that the mice were having nearly 50 percent more pups than normal, and that the liver removed the altered hormone from the blood more slowly. In addition, female mice were maturing earlier, were always receptive to male overtures for mating and had a disrupted ovulatory cycle. Males had higher levels of testosterone and females had higher levels of estrogen. Surprisingly, the altered female mice were also better mothers: They ate their pups less often.
"One could speculate that fertility problems in some humans may be partly related to a defect somewhere in this very complicated regulatory system," says Baenziger. "They may have the wrong proportion of some of these sugars, or the receptors that clear the sugar-hormone combination from the blood might not bind as well."
Baenziger, who recently won a five-year, $3.3 million grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute, wants to learn more about the segments in the reproductive hormones that single them out for the addition of unique sugars. He hopes to use that information to search for other proteins that receive similar treatment.
"We know these systems for adding sugars are well-regulated, but we're just starting to get a sense for how they are controlled and how far-reaching their effects can be," he says. "I think we're going to see much more of this kind of alteration and regulation of protein properties via added sugars in many other important areas of biology."
|Contact: Michael Purdy|
Washington University School of Medicine