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N Gerard, T Delpuech, C Oxvig, MT Overgaard, and P Monget

In the ovary of mammalian species, terminal follicular growth is accompanied by a decrease in intrafollicular levels of IGF-binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2) and IGFBP-4. The decrease in IGFBP-4 levels is essentially due to an increase in proteolytic cleavage by intrafollicular pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) in growing healthy follicles. The decrease in IGFBP-2 levels is partly due to a decrease in mRNA expression by follicular cells. In addition, we have recently shown that IGFBP-2 is also proteolytically cleaved by PAPP-A in bovine and porcine growing follicles. In the present work, we showed that follicular fluid from late dominant equine follicles (35 mm diameter) contains a proteolytic activity against IGFBP-2. First follicular fluid from dominant follicles contained lower levels of native IGFBP-2 than the corresponding serum, as assessed by Western ligand blotting. In contrast, immunoblotting experiments showed much higher levels of a 12 kDa proteolytic fragment in dominant follicular fluid than in the serum. Moreover, equine dominant follicular fluid was able to induce proteolysis of exogenous recombinant bovine (rb)IGFBP-2, this degradation being dose-dependently enhanced by IGFs. The proteolytic activity against IGFBP-2 in equine follicles was partially immunoneutralized by a polyclonal antibody raised against human PAPP-A. Moreover, cleavage of rbIGFBP-2 by equine follicular fluid was dose-dependently inhibited by a peptide derived from the heparin-binding domain of IGFBP-5, as well as by peptides derived from other heparin-binding domain-containing proteins such as connective tissue growth factor, vitronectin and heparin-interacting protein, previously shown to inhibit PAPP-A. Finally, the proteolytic activity was very low in subordinate follicles, was high in both early (25 mm diameter) and late (35 mm diameter) dominant follicles, and was slightly lower in preovulatory follicles recovered 35 h after human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) treatment.Overall, these data show that in the equine ovary, the selection of dominant follicles is associated with an increase of the proteolytic degradation of IGFBP-2 by PAPP-A, as for IGFBP-4, and potentially other protease(s), probably contributing to the increase in IGF bioavailability. In atretic subordinate follicles, the decrease in the proteolytic degradation of IGFBP-2, probably due in part to a direct inhibition by peptides containing heparin-binding domains, contributes to the increase in IGFBP-2 levels and the decrease in IGF bioavailability. The expression of PAPP-A and IGFBP-2 mRNA during folliculogenesis remain to be investigated in the mare.

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N Gerard, M Caillaud, A Martoriati, G Goudet, and AC Lalmanach

Interleukins (ILs) are known best for their involvement in the immune system and their role during inflammation. In the ovary, a growing body of evidence suggests that the ovarian follicle is a site of inflammatory reactions. Thus ovarian cells could represent sources and targets of ILs. Since then, the IL-1 system components (IL-1alpha, IL-1beta, IL-1 receptor antagonist, IL-1 receptors) have been demonstrated to have several sites of synthesis in the ovary. These factors have been localized in the various ovarian cell types, such as the oocyte, granulosa and theca cells, in several mammalian species. IL-1-like bioactivity has been reported in human and porcine follicular fluid at the time of ovulation. The role of IL-1 in local processes is still poorly known, although there is evidence for involvement in the ovulation process, and in oocyte maturation. More precisely, IL-1 may be involved in several ovulation-associated events such as the synthesis of proteases, regulation of plasminogen activator activity, prostaglandin and nitric oxide production. IL-1 also regulates ovarian steroidogenesis. These different aspects of the involvement of the IL-1 system in important aspects of female reproduction are discussed.

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YS Huang, K Rousseau, N Le Belle, B Vidal, E Burzawa-Gerard, J Marchelidon, and S Dufour

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I has been suggested as a potential signal linking growth and puberty in mammals. Using the juvenile European eel as a model, we employed a long-term, serum-free primary culture of pituitary cells to study the direct effect of IGF-I on gonadotrophin (GtH-II=LH) production. IGF-I increased both cell content and release of GtH-II in a time- and dose-dependent manner. IGF-I and IGF-II had similar potencies but insulin was 100-fold less effective, suggesting the implication of an IGF type 1 receptor. Other growth and metabolic factors, such as basic fibroblast growth factor and thyroid hormones, had no effect on GtH-II production. IGF-I did not significantly increase the number of GtH-II immunoreactive cells, indicating that its stimulatory effect on GtH-II production does not result from gonadotroph proliferation. Comparison of IGF-I and somatostatin (SRIH-14) effects showed that both factors inhibited growth hormone (GH) release but only IGF-I stimulated GtH-II production by eel pituitary cells. This indicates that the effect of IGF-I on gonadotrophs is not mediated by the reduction of GH released by somatotrophs into the culture medium. This study demonstrates a specific stimulatory effect of IGF-I on eel GtH-II production, played out directly at the pituitary level. These data obtained in a primitive teleost suggest that the role of IGF-I as a link between body growth and puberty may have been established early in the evolution of vertebrates.