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C Huet, C Pisselet, B Mandon-Pepin, P Monget, and D Monniaux

The extracellular matrix (ECM), constituting the follicular basal lamina and present also between follicular cells and in the follicular fluid, is believed to regulate granulosa cell (GC) function during follicular development. Ovine GCs isolated from small (1-3 mm in diameter) or large (4-7 mm in diameter) antral follicles were cultured on various pure ECM components (type I collagen, fibronectin, laminin), synthetic substrata enhancing (RGD peptides) or impairing (poly 2-hydroxyethylmethacrylate (poly-hema)) cell adhesion, or in the presence of heparin. The effects of these factors, used alone or in combination with IGF-I and/or FSH, were evaluated in terms of GC spread, survival, proliferation and steroidogenesis. When grown on type I collagen (CI) gel, poly-hema or heparin, GCs from both large and small follicles exhibited a round shape and a low proliferation rate. Compared with non-coated plastic substratum as a control, these ECM or synthetic compounds enhanced estradiol secretion and reduced progesterone secretion by large-follicle GCs. In contrast, GCs from both large and small follicles spread extensively on CI coating, fibronectin, laminin and RGD peptides. Fibronectin and laminin dramatically increased the proliferation rate and enhanced survival of GCs from both origins. Moreover, fibronectin, laminin and RGD peptides reduced estradiol secretion by large-follicle GCs. Unexpectedly, CI coating increased estradiol secretion and reduced progesterone secretion by large-follicle GCs, suggesting that type I collagen was able to maintain estradiol secretion independently of GC shape. Finally, GC responsiveness to IGF-I and FSH, in terms of proliferation and steroidogenesis, was generally maintained when cells were grown on ECM components, RGD peptides and in the presence of heparin. However, when large-follicle GCs were grown as non-adherent clusters (as observed on poly-hema) basal and IGF-I- and/or FSH-stimulated progesterone secretions were totally abolished. Overall, this study shows that GC shape, survival, proliferation and steroidogenesis can be modulated in vitro by pure ECM components in a specific and coordinated manner. It is suggested that, in vivo, fibronectin and laminin would sustain follicular development by enhancing the survival and proliferation of GCs, whereas type I collagen might participate in the maintenance of estradiol secretion in large antral follicles.

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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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F Le Bellego, C Pisselet, C Huet, P Monget, and D Monniaux

This study aimed to determine the physiological role of laminin (LN) and its receptor, alpha(6)beta(1) integrin, in controlling the functions of granulosa cells (GC) during follicular development in sheep ovary. Immunohistochemistry experiments showed the presence of increasing levels of LN (P<0.0001), and high levels of mature alpha(6)beta(1) integrin in GC layers of healthy antral follicles during the follicular and the preovulatory phases of the estrous cycle. In vitro, the addition of a function-blocking antibody raised against alpha(6) subunit (anti-alpha(6) IgG) to the medium of ovine GC cultured on LN impaired cell spreading (P<0.0001), decreased the proliferation rate (P<0.05) and increased the apoptosis rate (P<0.05). Furthermore, addition of anti-alpha(6) IgG enhanced estradiol (E2) secretion by GC in the presence or absence of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone or insulin-like growth factor-I in culture medium (P<0.0001), and inhibited progesterone (P4) secretion in basal conditions or in the presence of low (0.5 ng/ml) FSH concentrations only (P<0.0001). The anti-alpha(6) IgG effect was specific to an interaction of LN with alpha(6)beta(1) integrin since it was ineffective on GC cultured on heat-denatured LN, RGD (arginine-glycine-aspartic acid) peptides and non-coated substratum. Hence, this study established that alpha(6)beta(1) integrin 1) was expressed in GC of antral follicles, 2) mediated the actions of LN on survival, proliferation and steroidogenesis of GC, and 3) was able to dramatically modulate P4 and E2 secretion by GC in vitro. It is suggested that during the follicular and the preovulatory phases of the estrous cycle, the increasing levels of LN in GC of large antral follicles might support their final development to ovulation.

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P Froment, F Gizard, D Defever, B Staels, J Dupont, and P Monget

Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARα, PPARβ/δ and PPARγ) are a family of nuclear receptors that are activated by binding of natural ligands, such as polyunsaturated fatty acids or by synthetic ligands. Synthetic molecules of the glitazone family, which bind to PPARγ, are currently used to treat type II diabetes and also to attenuate the secondary clinical symptoms frequently associated with insulin resistance, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PPARs are expressed in different compartments of the reproductive system (hypothalamus, pituitary, ovary, uterus and testis). Conservative functions of PPARs in mammalian species could be suggested through several in vivo and in vitro studies, especially in the ovary and during placental development. Several groups have described a strong expression of PPARγ in ovarian granulosa cells, and glitazones modulate granulosa cell proliferation and steroidogenesis in vitro. All these recent data raise new questions about the biologic actions of PPARs in reproduction and their use in therapeutic treatments of fertility troubles such as PCOS or endometriosis. In this review, we first describe the roles of PPARs in different compartments of the reproductive axis (from male and female gametogenesis to parturition), with a focus on PPARγ. Secondly, we discuss the possible molecular mechanisms underlying the effect of glitazones on PCOS. Like other ‘insulin sensitizer’ molecules, such as metformin, glitazones may in fact act directly on ovarian cells. Finally, we discuss the eventual actions of PPARs as mediators of environmental toxic substances for reproductive function.

Free access

S Fabre, A Pierre, C Pisselet, P Mulsant, F Lecerf, J Pohl, P Monget, and D Monniaux

The hyperprolificacy phenotype of Booroola ewes is due to the presence of the FecB(B) allele at the FecB locus, recently identified as a single amino acid substitution (Q249R) in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type-IB receptor (BMPR1B), and is associated with a more precocious differentiation of ovarian granulosa cells (GCs). To evaluate the consequences of the Booroola mutation on BMPR1B functions, the action of ligands of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGFbeta)/BMP family that act through (growth and differentiation factor-5, BMP-4) or independently of (activin A, TGFbeta-1) BMPR1B were studied on primary cultures of GCs from homozygous FecB(+) and FecB(B) ewes. All the tested TGFbeta/BMP family ligands inhibited progesterone secretion by FecB(+) GCs. Those inhibitory effects were lower for GCs from preovulatory (5-7 mm diameter) than from small antral follicles (1-3 mm diameter). The presence of the Booroola mutation was associated with a 3- to 4-fold (P<0.001) decreased responsiveness of GCs from FecB(B) compared with FecB(+) small follicles to the action of BMPR1B ligands. In contrast, TGFbeta-1 and activin A had similar inhibitory effects on progesterone secretion by GCs from FecB(+) and FecB(B) small follicles. No difference between genotypes was observed with GCs from preovulatory follicles. In transfection experiments with HEK-293 cells, co-expression of FecB(+) BMPR1B and BMPR2 resulted in a 2.6-fold (P<0.01) induction of the activity of a BMP-specific luciferase reporter construct by BMP-4. Interestingly, no response to BMP-4 was observed when cells were transfected with the FecB(B) form of the BMPR1B receptor. Overall, these data strongly suggest that the Q249R mutation is associated with a specific alteration of BMPR1B signaling in hyperprolific Booroola ewes.

Free access

S Elis, J Dupont, I Couty, L Persani, M Govoroun, E Blesbois, F Batellier, and P Monget

The bone morphogenetic protein 15 (Bmp15) and growth differentiation factor 9 (Gdf9) genes are two members of the transforming growth factor-β superfamily. In mammals, these genes are known to be specifically expressed in oocytes and to be essential for female fertility. However, potential ovarian roles of BMPs remain unexplored in birds. The aim of the present work was to study for the first time the expression of Bmp15 in the hen ovary, to compare its expression pattern with that of Gdf9, and then to investigate the effects of BMP15 on granulosa cell (GC) proliferation and steroidogenesis. We found that chicken Bmp15 and Gdf9 genes were preferentially expressed in the ovary. We showed using in situ hybridization that Bmp15 and Gdf9 mRNAs were specifically localized in oocytes of all ovarian follicles examined. We also demonstrated using real-time quantitative RT-PCR that Bmp15 and Gdf9 expression was maintained during hierarchical follicular maturation in the gerrminal disc region and then progressively declined after ovulation. BMP15 was able to activate Smad1 (mothers against decapentaplegichomolog1) signaling pathway in hen GCs. Moreover, we showed a strong inhibitory effect of BMP15 on gonadotropin-induced progesterone production in hen GCs. This inhibitory effect was associated with a decrease in steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) level. Taken together, our results suggest that BMP15 may have a key role in the female fertility of birds.

Free access

C Viguié, Y Chilliard, V Gayrard, N Picard-Hagen, P Monget, A Dutour, and P-L Toutain

This study aimed at investigating the possible linkage between natural scrapie and alterations of the somatotropic axis. Scrapie-affected ewes exhibited 2-fold higher mean GH concentrations during both autumn and spring. GH pulse frequencies were higher in scrapie-affected ewes than in control animals (mean±S.E.M. number of pulses/24 h: 10.4±0.9 and 7.6±0.9 for scrapie-affected and control ewes respectively) suggesting the involvement of central mechanisms. GH secretion induced by administration of an α2-adrenergic agonist, which acts centrally to stimulate GH secretion, was similar between healthy and scrapie-affected ewes (ratios of the area under the curve (AUC) of GH concentration after to the GH AUC before the agonist administration were 3.6±1.6 and 4.9±1.0 for scrapie-affected and control ewes respectively). Finally, humoral markers and parameters of the metabolic status were determined to test the hypothesis that scrapie-associated alterations of GH secretion could be related to disruption of metabolic homeostasis. Glucose, insulin and urea plasma concentrations were higher in scrapie-affected than in healthy ewes. Neither leptin nor IGF-I levels were affected by scrapie. Total thyroxine (T4) was decreased in scrapie-affected ewes but free T4 and total and free triiodothyronine were not modified. In conclusion, our results showed the existence in scrapie-affected ewes of endocrine and metabolic alterations typical of acute illness proceeding, at least in part, from central mechanisms.