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Intraovarian regulation of gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis depends on notch receptor signaling pathways not involving Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4)

Zimmermann, Ralf C.; Jovanovic, Vuk P.; Sauer, Christopher M.; Shawber, Carrie; Gomez, Raul; Wang, Xing; Sauer, Mark V.; Kitajewski, Jan K.

Background: In-situ hybridisation studies demonstrate that Notch receptors and ligands are expressed in granulosa cells (GCs) and in the theca layer vasculature of growing follicles. Notch signaling involves cell-to-cell interaction mediated by transmembrane receptors and ligands. This signaling pathway may represent a novel intraovarian regulator of gonadotropin-dependent follicular development to the preovulatory stage. We hypothesized that blocking Notch pathways would disrupt follicular maturation in the mouse ovary. Methods: Hypophysectomized CD21 female mice were administered pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG) for 3 days to stimulate follicular development. In one experiment, a pan-notch inhibitor, compound E, was initiated 2 days prior to and throughout stimulation (n = 10), while in a second experiment, a humanized phage Dll4 blocking antibody, YW152F, was used (n = 5). After sacrifice, ovarian histology, serum estradiol levels and uterine weights were compared to controls. The ovarian morphology was evaluated with hematoxylin/eosin staining and immunohistochemistry was performed for Notch1, Notch2, Notch3, Notch4, Jagged1, Dll4, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule (PECAM) and alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) detection. Results: We localized specific Notch ligands and receptors in the following structures: Dll4 is specific to theca layer endothelial cells (ECs); Notch1/Notch4 and Jagged1 are expressed in theca layer ECs and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), whereas Notch3 is restricted to VSMCs; Notch2 is expressed mostly on GCs of small follicles. Administration of a pan-Notch inhibitor, compound E, inhibits follicular development to the preovulatory stage (8.5 preovulatory follicles in treatment vs. 3.4 preovulatory follicles in control, p < 0.01; average number per ovary) with significant secondary effects on ovarian and uterine weight and estradiol secretion in a setting of uninhibited vascular proliferation, but disorganized appearance of ECs and VSMCs. Inhibition of endothelial Notch1 function through the inactivation of its ligand Dll4 with the blocking antibody YW152F induces mild disorganisation of follicular vasculature, but has no significant effect on gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis. Conclusions: Our experiments suggest that the complete blockage of the Notch signaling pathway with compound E impairs folliculogenesis and induces disruption of gonadotropin stimulated angiogenesis. It seems the mechanism involves Notch1 and Notch3, specifically, causing the improper assembly of ECs and VSMCs in the theca layer, although the potential role of non-angiogenic Notch signaling, such as Jagged2 to Notch2 in GCs, remains to be elucidated.


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Also Published In

Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Mailman School of Public Health
BioMed Central
Published Here
September 8, 2014


Notch, Dll4, Jagged, Folliculogenesis, Ovary, Gamma-secretase inhibitor, YW152F