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Warakorn Cheewasopit, Mhairi Laird, Claire Glister, and Phil G Knight

Myostatin plays a negative role in skeletal muscle growth regulation but its potential role in the ovary has received little attention. Here, we first examined relative expression of myostatin (MSTN), myostatin receptors (ACVR1B, ACVR2B and TGFBR1) and binding protein, follistatin (FST), in granulosa (GC) and theca (TC) cells of developing bovine follicles. Secondly, using primary GC and TC cultures, we investigated whether myostatin affects steroidogenesis and cell number. Thirdly, effects of gonadotropins and other intrafollicular factors on MSTN expression in GC and TC were examined. MSTN, ACVR1B, TGFBR1, ACVR2B and FST mRNA was detected in both GC and TC at all follicle stages. Immunohistochemistry confirmed follicular expression of myostatin protein. Interestingly, MSTN mRNA expression was lowest in GC of large oestrogen-active follicles whilst GC FST expression was maximal at this stage. In GC, myostatin increased basal CYP19A1 expression and oestradiol secretion whilst decreasing basal and FSH-induced HSD3B1 expression and progesterone secretion and increasing cell number. Myostatin also reduced IGF-induced progesterone secretion. FSH and dihydrotestosterone had no effect on granulosal MSTN expression whilst insulin-like growth factor and tumour necrosis factor-alpha suppressed MSTN level. In TC, myostatin suppressed basal and LH-stimulated androgen secretion in a follistatin-reversible manner and increased cell number, without affecting progesterone secretion. LH reduced thecal MSTN expression whilst BMP6 had no effect. Collectively, results indicate that, in addition to being potentially responsive to muscle-derived myostatin from the circulation, myostatin may have an intraovarian autocrine/paracrine role to modulate thecal and granulosal steroidogenesis and cell proliferation/survival.

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Moafaq Samir, Claire Glister, Dareen Mattar, Mhairi Laird, and Phil G Knight

Pro-inflammatory cytokines secreted by macrophages and other cell types are implicated as intraovarian factors affecting different aspects of ovarian function including follicle and corpus luteum ‘turnover’, steroidogenesis and angiogenesis. Here, we compared granulosal (GC) and thecal (TC) expression of TNF, IL6 and their receptors (TNFRSF1A, TNFRSF1B and IL6R) during bovine antral follicle development; all five mRNA transcripts were detected in both GC and TC and statistically significant cell-type and follicle stage-related differences were evident. Since few studies have examined cytokine actions on TC steroidogenesis, we cultured TC under conditions that retain a non-luteinized ‘follicular’ phenotype and treated them with TNFα and IL6 under basal and LH-stimulated conditions. Both TNFα and IL6 suppressed androgen secretion concomitantly with CYP17A1 and LHCGR mRNA expression. In addition, TNFα reduced INSL3, HSD3B1 and NOS3 expression but increased NOS2 expression. IL6 also reduced LHCGR and STAR expression but did not affect HSD3B1, INSL3, NOS2 or NOS3 expression. As macrophages are a prominent source of these cytokines in vivo, we next co-cultured TC with macrophages and observed an abolition of LH-induced androgen production accompanied by a reduction in CYP17A1, INSL3, LHCGR, STAR, CYP11A1 and HSD3B1 expression. Exposure of TC to bacterial lipopolysaccharide also blocked LH-induced androgen secretion, an effect reduced by a toll-like receptor blocker (TAK242). Collectively, the results support an inhibitory action of macrophages on thecal androgen production, likely mediated by their secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines that downregulate the expression of LHCGR, CYP17A1 and INSL3. Bovine theca interna cells can also detect and respond directly to lipopolysaccharide.

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Kathryn J Woad, Morag G Hunter, George E Mann, Mhairi Laird, Amanda J Hammond, and Robert S Robinson

Fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 2 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) A are thought to be key controllers of luteal angiogenesis; however, their precise roles in the regulation and coordination of this complex process remain unknown. Thus, the temporal and spatial patterns of endothelial network formation were determined by culturing mixed cell types from early bovine corpora lutea on fibronectin in the presence of FGF2 and VEGFA (6 h to 9 days). Endothelial cells, as determined by von Willebrand factor immunohistochemistry, initially grew in cell islands (days 0–3), before undergoing a period of vascular sprouting to display a more tubule-like appearance (days 3–6), and after 9 days in culture had formed extensive intricate networks. Mixed populations of luteal cells were treated with SU1498 (VEGF receptor 2 inhibitor) or SU5402 (FGF receptor 1 inhibitor) or control on days 0–3, 3–6 or 6–9 to determine the role of FGF2 and VEGFA during these specific windows. The total area of endothelial cells was unaffected by SU1498 treatment during any window. In contrast, SU5402 treatment caused maximal reduction in the total area of endothelial cell networks on days 3–6 vs controls (mean reduction 81%; P<0.001) during the period of tubule initiation. Moreover, SU5402 treatment on days 3–6 dramatically reduced the total number of branch points (P<0.001) and degree of branching per endothelial cell island (P<0.05) in the absence of changes in mean island area. This suggests that FGF2 is a key determinant of vascular sprouting and hence critical to luteal development.