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Pauline C Xu, Yi Luan, Seok-Yeong Yu, Jing Xu, Donald W Coulter, and So-Youn Kim

Immunotherapy has emerged at the forefront of cancer treatment. Checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA), a chimeric antibody which targets programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in pediatric patients with relapsed or refractory classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, there is currently no published data regarding the effects of pembrolizumab on the ovary of female pediatric patients. In this study, prepubertal immunocompetent and immunodeficient female mice were injected with pembrolizumab or anti-mouse PD-1 antibody. The number of primordial follicles significantly decreased post-injection of both pembrolizumab and anti-mouse PD-1 antibody in immunocompetent mice. However, no changes in follicle numbers were observed in immunodeficient nude mice. Superovulation test and vaginal opening experiments suggest that there is no difference in the number of cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) and the timing of puberty onset between the control and anti-mouse PD-1 antibody treatment groups, indicating that there is no effect on short-term fertility. Elevation of pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-α following COX-2 upregulation was observed in the ovary. CD3+ T-cell infiltration was detected within some ovarian follicles and between stromal cells of the ovaries in mice following treatment with anti-mouse PD-1 antibody. Thus, PD-1 immune checkpoint blockade affects the ovarian reserve through a mechanism possibly involving inflammation following CD3+ T-cell infiltration.