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Jessica Stringer, Ella Groenewegen, Seng H Liew, and Karla Hutt

Primordial follicle oocytes are extremely vulnerable to DNA damage caused by exogenous agents, such as those commonly used to treat cancer. Consequently, female cancer patients often have diminished ovarian reserve, which if severe enough, can cause premature ovarian failure and early menopause. Advances in cancer therapies have resulted in significantly improved cancer survival rates; therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to devise strategies to protect the ovarian reserve from cancer treatments, to avoid loss of fertility and endocrine dysfunction. In this study, we aimed to determine whether supplementation with nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) could preserve the ovarian reserve following exposure to DNA-damaging cancer treatments. Adult female mice (n = 5–6/group) received saline or NMN (500 mg/kg/day) for 8 days. Mice were left untreated or exposed to γ-irradiation (0.1 Gy) or cyclophosphamide (150 mg/kg) on day 7 and ovaries and serum collected for analysis on day 12. We report that γ-irradiation treatment significantly reduced the number of primordial follicles, but supplementation with NMN did not prevent the observed follicle loss. Similarly, cyclophosphamide treatment significantly reduced primordial follicle numbers, but these losses were not prevented by NMN supplementation. In conclusion, depletion of the ovarian reserve following γ-irradiation or cyclophosphamide was not protected by NMN supplementation under the conditions employed in this study.

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Elizabeth K McReight, Seng H Liew, Sarah E Steane, Karla J Hutt, Karen M Moritz, and Lisa K Akison

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) has been associated with reproductive dysfunction in offspring. However, studies in females, particularly examining long-term infertility or impacts on ovarian reserve, are lacking. The current study utilised a moderate, episodic exposure model in rats to mimic ‘special occasion’ drinking, which is reported to be common during pregnancy. Our objective was to examine the consequences of this prenatal alcohol exposure on reproductive parameters in female offspring. Pregnant Sprague–Dawley rats were treated with either an ethanol gavage (1 g EtOH/kg body weight), or an equivalent volume of saline, on embryonic days 13.5 and 14.5 of pregnancy, resulting in a peak blood alcohol concentration of ~0.04%. Neonatal female offspring were examined for molecular markers regulating early follicle numbers in the ovary, and unbiased stereology was used to quantify primordial and early growing follicle numbers. Puberty onset (age at vaginal opening and first estrous) was measured post-weaning, and estrous cycles, reproductive hormones (progesterone and estradiol) and pregnancy success was measured in adults (5–6 months of age). We found no evidence that any of these reproductive parameters were significantly altered by PAE in this model. This animal study provides some reassurance for women who may have consumed a small amount of alcohol during their pregnancy. However, previously published effects on offspring metabolism using this model reinforce avoidance of alcohol during pregnancy.

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Kavitha Vaithiyanathan, Seng H Liew, Nadeen Zerafa, Thilini Gamage, Michele Cook, Lorraine A O’Reilly, Philippe Bouillet, Clare L Scott, Andreas Strasser, Jock K Findlay, and Karla J Hutt


Apoptosis plays a prominent role during ovarian development by eliminating large numbers of germ cells from the female germ line. However, the precise mechanisms and regulatory proteins involved in germ cell death are yet to be determined. In this study, we characterised the role of the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein, BCL2-modifying factor (BMF), in germ cell apoptosis in embryonic and neonatal mouse ovaries. BMF protein was immunohistochemically localised to germ cells at embryonic days 15.5 (E15.5) and E17.5 and postnatal day 1 (PN1), coincident with entry into the meiotic prophase, but was undetectable at E13.5, and only present at low levels at PN3 and PN5. Consistent with this expression pattern, loss of BMF in female mice was associated with a decrease in apoptosis at E15.5 and E17.5. Furthermore, increased numbers of germ cells were found in ovaries from Bmf −/− mice compared with WT animals at E15.5 and PN1. However, germ cell numbers were comparable between Bmf −/− and WT ovaries at PN3, PN5 and PN10. Collectively, these data indicate that BMF mediates foetal oocyte loss and its action limits the maximal number of germ cells attained in the developing ovary, but does not influence the number of primordial follicles initially established in ovarian reserve.

Free access

Michelle Myers, F Hamish Morgan, Seng H Liew, Nadeen Zerafa, Thilini Upeksha Gamage, Mai Sarraj, Michele Cook, Ileana Kapic, Antony Sutherland, Clare L Scott, Andreas Strasser, Jock K Findlay, Jeffrey B Kerr, and Karla J Hutt

The number of primordial follicles initially established within the ovary is influenced by the extent of germ cell death during foetal ovarian development, but the mechanisms that mediate this death have not been fully uncovered. In this study, we identified BBC3 (PUMA) (p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis, also known as BCL2-binding component 3), a pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein belonging to the BCL2 family, as a critical determinant of the number of germ cells during ovarian development. Targeted disruption of the Bbc3 gene revealed a significant increase in the number of germ cells as early as embryonic day 13.5. The number of germ cells remained elevated in Bbc3 −/− female mice compared with WT female mice throughout the remainder of embryonic and early postnatal life, resulting in a 1.9-fold increase in the number of primordial follicles in the ovary on postnatal day 10. The increase in the number of germ cells observed in the ovaries of Bbc3 −/− mice could not be attributed to the altered proliferative activity of germ cells within the ovaries. Furthermore, BBC3 was found to be not required for the massive germ cell loss that occurs during germ cell nest breakdown. Our data indicate that BBC3 is a critical regulator of germ cell death that acts during the migratory phase of oogenesis or very soon after the arrival of germ cells in the gonad and that BBC3-mediated cell death limits the number of primordial follicles established in the initial ovarian reserve.