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Yi Luan, Maxwell E Edmonds, Teresa K Woodruff, and So-Youn Kim

Cancer therapy can cause off-target effects including ovarian damage, which may result in primary ovarian insufficiency in girls and premenopausal women. Loss of ovarian follicles within the ovarian reserve leads to ovarian endocrine dysfunction and impaired fertility. Cyclophosphamide (CPA), a commonly used chemotherapeutic and immunosuppressant agent, is a gonadotoxic agent that destroys ovarian cells by crosslinking DNA. To protect the ovary against CPA damage, we sought to precisely map the mechanism by which the ovarian reserve is depleted by CPA. We found that CPA specifically depletes primordial follicles without affecting primary and secondary follicles in three independent murine strains (CD-1, C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ) in vivo. We directly tested the effect of the active metabolite of CPA, 1 μM 4-hydroxyperoxycyclophophamide (4-HC), in vitro and confirmed the loss of primordial oocytes but no change in the number of primary and secondary follicles. We demonstrated that phospho-AKT (p-AKT) and cleaved PARP (cPARP) are present in primordial oocytes 3 days after CPA injection, consistent with the role of these markers as part of the apoptotic cascade. Interestingly, p-AKT positive primordial oocytes co-expressed cPARP. Treatment of animals with specific inhibitors of apoptotic pathway components, ETP46464 and CHK2, blocked 4-HC‒induced DNA damage in vitro. These data suggest that CPA targets primordial germ cells in the ovarian reserve by stimulating apoptosis pathways. Adjuvant therapies to protect primordial germ cells from the off-target effects of CPA may reduce the risk of POI.

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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.