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Dori C Woods and A L Johnson

While there is accumulating evidence that mitogen-activated protein kinase/Erk and protein kinase C (PKC) signaling inhibits premature differentiation of granulosa cells in hen prehierarchal follicles, it has only recently been established that these signaling pathways play an important facilitory role in promoting steroidogenesis in differentiated granulosa cells from preovulatory follicles. The present studies were conducted with differentiated granulosa cells to establish the ability of LH to initiate PKC activity, and the subsequent requirement for PKC activity in promoting the ErbB/Erk signaling cascade that ultimately facilitates LH-induced progesterone production. Incubation of differentiated granulosa cells with LH increases PKC activity within 15 min, and latently promotes Erk phosphorylation (P-Erk) by 180 min. Inhibition of PKC activity with GF109203X attenuates LH- and 8-bromo-cAMP (8-br-cAMP)-induced P-Erk, but not P-Erk promoted by an epidermal growth factor (EGF) family ligand (e.g., transforming growth factor α). Importantly, inhibition of PKC activity also blocks the LH-induced increase in the autocrine expression of mRNA encoding the EGF family ligands, such as EGF, amphiregulin, and betacellulin. Furthermore, inhibition of EGF ligand shedding at the level of the cell membrane using the matrix metalloprotease activity inhibitor, GM6001, prevents both LH- and 8-br-cAMP-induced P-Erk and progesterone production. These findings provide evidence for a facilitory role of PKC and ErbB/Erk signaling in LH-induced progesterone production, place the requirement for PKC activation upstream of ErbB/Erk activity, and demonstrate for the first time in a non-mammalian vertebrate the requirement for PKC activity in LH-induced expression of EGF family ligands in granulosa cells.

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Dori C Woods, Jeffrey S Schorey, and A L Johnson

The recent identification of toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling within ovarian granulosa cells has broad implications for ovarian physiology. Functions of TLRs within granulosa cells of the laying hen are of particular interest due to the method of transovarian transmission of Salmonella enteritidis, which results in egg contamination. This study utilized hen granulosa cells to evaluate the expression and function of Gallus TLR-signaling at distinct stages of follicular maturity. Data presented herein demonstrate the presence of TLR2, TLR4, and TLR15 mRNAs in undifferentiated granulosa cells from prehierarchal follicles and differentiated granulosa cells from preovulatory follicles, together with mRNAs encoding adaptor proteins and signaling components required for TLR signaling gene. Treatment with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or LH, in vitro, led to the differential regulation of TLRs based on the stage of follicle maturation, with the largest (F1) follicle granulosa cells having the most rapid response. Furthermore, treatment with LPS resulted in attenuation of agonist-induced progesterone synthesis in undifferentiated, but not differentiated, granulosa cells. Additionally, undifferentiated granulosa cells were significantly more sensitive to LPS-induced apoptosis than differentiated granulosa cells from the F1 follicle. Together, these data provide evidence for a complete and functional TLR signaling pathway in hen granulosa cells, with effects on steroidogenesis and cell viability dependent upon stage of maturation. These differences may reflect the susceptibility of granulosa cells at early stages of maturation to undergo apoptosis in response to select pathogenic stimuli, thus attenuating transovarian transmission, whereas granulosa cells from preovulatory follicles are comparably resistant to LPS-mediated apoptosis.

Free access

A L Johnson, Christine Ratajczak, Morgan J Haugen, Han-Ken Liu, and Dori C Woods

Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) represents one of several cytokine members of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily reported to initiate apoptosis in a wide range of transformed, but not most normal, cell types. The present studies were conducted to evaluate the potential for TRAIL to promote apoptotic cell death in differentiated granulosa cells collected from hen preovulatory follicles. While mRNA encoding critical components (including TRAIL) required for a functional extrinsic cell death pathway are expressed in granulosa cells, TRAIL treatment by itself fails to induce either caspase-3 activity or a decrease in cell viability. On the other hand, preculture of cells with the conventional chemotherapeutic, cisplatin, or the 20S proteosome inhibitor, Z-LLF-CHO, sensitizes granulosa cells to TRAIL as evidenced by enhanced caspase-3 activity after 4 h of culture and loss of cell viability after 24 h when compared with either cisplatin or Z-LLF-CHO treatment alone. Moreover, the sensitizing effect of Z-LLF-CHO on TRAIL-induced loss of cell viability is prevented by the selective caspase-8 inhibitor, Z-IETD-FMK. Interestingly, TRAIL mRNA expression is elevated both in prehierarchal follicles undergoing spontaneous atresia and in prehierarchal follicles induced to undergo atresia for 6 h in vitro. In summary, the data demonstrate the presence of a functional TRAIL signaling pathway in hen granulosa cells, and are consistent with the possibility that TRAIL signaling may directly or indirectly participate in the process of follicle atresia in vivo.

Open access

Christine Faraci, Sofia Annis, Joyce Jin, Housaiyin Li, Konstantin Khrapko, and Dori C Woods

The mtDNA ‘mutator’ mouse, also called the ‘POLG’ mouse, is a well-characterized model frequently used for studies of progeroid aging. Harboring a mutation in the proofreading domain of the mitochondrial polymerase, polymerase-γ (Polg), POLG mice acquire mtDNA mutations at an accelerated rate. This results in premature mitochondrial dysfunction and a systemic aging phenotype. Previous work has demonstrated that the progeroid phenotype in POLG is attenuated following endurance exercise, the only reported intervention to extend health span and lifespan of these mice. Herein, oocyte quality was evaluated in sedentary and exercised POLG mice. In mice homozygous for the Polg mutation, litter size is dramatically reduced as compared to heterozygous Polg mice. Following ovarian hyper-stimulation, oocytes were retrieved until 9 months of age in exercised and sedentary groups, with no oocytes ovulated thereafter. Although ovulated oocyte numbers were not impacted by exercise, we did find a modest improvement in both the ovarian follicle reserve and in oocyte quality based on meiotic spindle assembly, chromosomal segregation and mitochondrial distribution at 7 months of age in exercised POLG mice as compared to sedentary counterparts. Of note, analysis of mtDNA mutational load revealed no differences between exercised and sedentary groups. Collectively, these data indicate that exercise differentially influences somatic tissues of the POLG mouse as compared to oocytes, highlighting important mechanistic differences between mitochondrial regulatory mechanisms in the soma and the germline.