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Helen Baines, Margaret O Nwagwu, Edwina C Furneaux, Jane Stewart, Jeffrey B Kerr, Terry M Mayhew and Francis J P Ebling

Testicular development is arrested in the hypogonadal (hpg) mouse due to a congenital deficiency of hypothalamic gonadotropin-releasing hormone synthesis. Previous studies have demonstrated that chronic treatment of these mice with estradiol induces testicular maturation and qualitatively normal spermatogenesis, but it is not known whether these are direct effects via estrogen receptors expressed in the testis, or indirect actions via the pituitary gland. The aim of the current studies was to determine whether the actions of estradiol require the presence of androgens. Sensitive assays revealed that chronic estradiol treatment produced time-dependent increases in pituitary FSH production but no increases in pituitary LH or testicular testosterone content could be detected. As a functional test of androgen dependence, hpg mice were treated for 70 days with estradiol plus Casodex (bicalutamide), an androgen receptor antagonist. Casodex treatment markedly attenuated both the estradiol-induced increase in testicular weight and the proliferation of the seminiferous epithelium, as revealed by morphometric analysis. However, it did not affect the estradiol-induced increase in pituitary FSH content, nor did it affect estradiol-induced increases in the weight of the seminal vesicles and epididymides. We conclude that increased FSH production is not sufficient to explain the increase in testicular development induced by estradiol in hpg mice; there is a requirement for functional androgen receptors for induction of testicular growth.

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J B Kerr, L Brogan, M Myers, K J Hutt, T Mladenovska, S Ricardo, K Hamza, C L Scott, A Strasser and J K Findlay

Reports indicate that germ-line stem cells present in adult mice can rapidly generate new oocytes and contribute to the primordial follicle reserve following conditions of ovotoxic stress. We further investigated the hypothesis that adult mice have the capacity to generate new oocytes by monitoring primordial follicle numbers throughout postnatal life and following depletion of the primordial follicle reserve by exposure to doxorubicin (DXR), trichostatin A (TSA), or whole-body γ-irradiation. We show that primordial follicle number remains stable in adult C57BL/6 mice between the ages of 25 and 100 days. However, within 2 days of treatment with DXR or TSA, primordial follicle numbers had declined to 65 and 51% respectively (P<0.05–0.01 when compared to untreated controls), with no restoration of follicle numbers evident after 7 days for either treatment. Furthermore, ovaries from mice subjected to sterilizing doses of γ-irradiation (0.45 or 4.5 Gy) revealed complete ablation of all primordial follicles 5 days after treatment, with no indication of follicular renewal. We conclude that neo-folliculogenesis does not occur following chemical or γ-irradiation mediated depletion of the primordial follicle reserve.

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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.