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Danielle Monniaux, Gérard Baril, Anne-Lyse Laine, Peggy Jarrier, Natividad Poulin, Juliette Cognié and Stéphane Fabre

Recently, we demonstrated the relationship between anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) circulating concentrations, ovarian follicles, and embryo production in cattle. However, they have not yet been established in a species with a seasonal breeding activity. Thus, goats were subjected to repeated in vivo embryo production during the breeding season, at the end of the breeding season, and at the end of the anestrus season. Embryo production after FSH treatment was highly repeatable for each goat. Plasma AMH concentrations, measured before the first FSH treatment, were highly correlated with the number of collected, transferable, and freezable embryos, resulting from the three sessions of embryo production. Plasma AMH concentrations transiently decreased after each exogenous FSH treatment, but they showed little change with season, and no relationship was observed between AMH and endogenous FSH concentrations during seasonal transitions. Follicles of 1–5 mm in diameter were the main target of the FSH treatment and were major contributors to circulating AMH concentrations. Granulosa cell AMH expression decreased as the follicle approached terminal development, while the expression of maturation markers (CYP19A1 and FSHR) increased. In conclusion, circulating AMH concentrations can be predictive of the capacity of a donor goat to produce high or low numbers of high-quality embryos. This prediction could be accurately made from a single blood measurement of AMH during either breeding or anestrus seasons. Variability in the number of gonadotropin-responsive follicles of 1–5 mm in diameter between individuals resulted in the differences in circulating AMH concentrations measured between individuals.

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Anthony Estienne, Belén Lahoz, Peggy Jarrier, Loys Bodin, José Folch, José-Luis Alabart, Stéphane Fabre and Danielle Monniaux

Polymorphisms in the gene encoding bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) have been associated with multiple ovulations in sheep. As BMP15 regulates inhibin expression in rodents, we assumed that the ovarian inhibin/activin system could mediate part of the effect of BMP15 mutations in the regulation of ovulation rate in sheep. To answer this question, we have studied the effects of two natural loss-of-function mutations of BMP15 on the expression of components of this system. The FecX R and the FecX Gr mutations, when present respectively in Rasa Aragonesa ewes at the heterozygous state and in Grivette ewes at the homozygous state, were associated with a twofold increase in ovulation rate. There were only small differences between mutant and wild-type ewes for mRNA expression of INHA, INHBA, ACVR1B, ACVR2A, FST or TGFBR3 in granulosa cells and inhibin A or activin A concentrations in follicular fluid. Moreover, the effects of mutations differed between breeds. In cultures of granulosa cells from wild-type ewes, BMP15, acting alone or in synergy with GDF9, stimulated INHA, INHBA and FST expression, but inhibited the expression of TGFBR3. Activin A did not affect INHBA expression, but inhibited the expression of ACVR2A also. The complexity of the inhibin/activin system, including positive and antagonistic elements, and the differential regulation of these elements by BMP15 and activin can explain that the effects of BMP15 mutations differ when present in different genetic backgrounds. In conclusion, the ovarian inhibin/activin system is unlikely to participate in the increase of ovulation rate associated with BMP15 mutations in sheep.

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Véronique Cadoret, Cynthia Frapsauce, Peggy Jarrier, Virginie Maillard, Agnès Bonnet, Yann Locatelli, Dominique Royère, Danielle Monniaux, Fabrice Guérif and Philippe Monget

In this study, we systematically compared the morphological, functional and molecular characteristics of granulosa cells and oocytes obtained by a three-dimensional in vitro model of ovine ovarian follicular growth with those of follicles recovered in vivo. Preantral follicles of 200 µm diameter were recovered and cultured up to 950 µm over a 20-day period. Compared with in vivo follicles, the in vitro culture conditions maintained follicle survival, with no difference in the rate of atresia. However, the in vitro conditions induced a slight decrease in oocyte growth rate, delayed antrum formation and increased granulosa cell proliferation rate, accompanied by an increase and decrease in CCND2 and CDKN1A mRNA expression respectively. These changes were associated with advanced granulosa cell differentiation in early antral follicles larger than 400 µm diameter, regardless of the presence or absence of FSH, as indicated by an increase in estradiol secretion, together with decreased AMH secretion and expression, as well as increased expression of GJA1, CYP19A1, ESR1, ESR2, FSHR, INHA, INHBA, INHBB and FST. There was a decrease in the expression of oocyte-specific molecular markers GJA4, KIT, ZP3, WEE2 and BMP15 in vitro compared to that in vivo. Moreover, a higher percentage of the oocytes recovered from cultured follicles 550 to 950 µm in diameter was able to reach the metaphase II meiosis stage. Overall, this in vitro model of ovarian follicle development is characterized by accelerated follicular maturation, associated with improved developmental competence of the oocyte, compared to follicles recovered in vivo.