Local roles of TGF-beta superfamily members in the control of ovarian follicle development
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/s0378-4320(03)00089-7
Members of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily have wide-ranging influences on many tissue and organ systems including the ovary. Two recently discovered TGF-beta superfamily members, growth/differentiation factor-9 (GDF-9) and bone morphogenetic protein-15 (BMP-15; also designated as GDF-9B) are expressed in an oocyte-specific manner from a very early stage and play a key role in promoting follicle growth beyond the primary stage. Follicle growth to the small antral stage does not require gonadotrophins but appears to be driven by local autocrine/paracrine signals from both somatic cell types (granulosa and theca) and from the oocyte. TGF-beta superfamily members expressed by follicular cells and implicated in this phase of follicle development include TGF-beta, activin, GDF-9/9B and several BMPs. Acquisition of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) responsiveness is a pre-requisite for growth beyond the small antral stage and evidence indicates an autocrine role for granulosa-derived activin in promoting granulosa cell proliferation, FSH receptor expression and aromatase activity. Indeed, some of the effects of FSH on granulosa cells may be mediated by endogenous activin. At the same time, activin may act on theca cells to attenuate luteinizing hormone (LH)-dependent androgen production in small to medium-size antral follicles. Dominant follicle selection appears to depend on differential FSH sensitivity amongst a growing cohort of small antral follicles. Activin may contribute to this selection process by sensitizing those follicles with the highest "activin tone" to FSH. Production of inhibin, like oestradiol, increases in selected dominant follicles, in an FSH- and insulin-like growth factor-dependent manner and may exert a paracrine action on theca cells to upregulate LH-induced secretion of androgen, an essential requirement for further oestradiol secretion by the pre-ovulatory follicle. Like activin, BMP-4 and -7 (mostly from theca), and BMP-6 (mostly from oocyte), can enhance oestradiol and inhibin secretion by bovine granulosa cells while suppressing progesterone secretion; this suggests a functional role in delaying follicle luteinization and/or atresia. Follistatin, on the other hand, may favor luteinization and/or atresia by bio-neutralizing intrafollicular activin and BMPs. Activin receptors are expressed by the oocyte and activin may have a further intrafollicular role in the terminal stages of follicle differentiation to promote oocyte maturation and developmental competence. In a reciprocal manner, oocyte-derived GDF-9/9B may act on the surrounding cumulus granulosa cells to attenuate oestradiol output and promote progesterone and hyaluronic acid production, mucification and cumulus expansion.(C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.