Effect of the reproductive cycle on morphology and activity of the ovarian surface epithelium in mammals
Saddick, Salina Yahya
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The layer of cells lining the outer surface of the mammalian ovary, the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), is a constant feature throughout the dynamic tissue remodeling that occurs throughout the reproductive cycle (follicle growth, ovulation, corpora lutea formation and pregnancy). Abnormal development of these cells is responsible for 90% of all epithelial ovarian cancers in women and epidemiological studies have shown that susceptibility to ovarian cancer is negatively correlated with increasing pregnancy. Little is known about how OSE cells are affected at each stage of the cycle, so the main aim of this study was to determine how the reproductive cycle affected proliferation and degeneration of OSE cells. This study utilised three animal models each with a different type of reproductive cycle: a mono-ovular seasonal breeder (Sheep), a mono-ovular polyoestrous breeder (Cow) and a poly-ovular non human primate (marmoset) to allow comparisons to be made. Comparison of OSE proliferative activity was made in sheep and marmoset at each stage of the cycle including pregnancy and anoestrous. The bovine model was used to investigate apoptotic cell death. Proliferative activity of somatic cells within the sheep ovary was monitored throughout the reproductive cycle by detection of cell cycle markers PCNA and Ki67 using immunohistochemistry. The pattern of OSE proliferation was correlated with the pattern of follicle development at each stage (sheep and marmoset). During pregnancy cell proliferation was significantly lower in OSE and in granulosa cells, reflecting a suppression of mature follicle development during these stages whereas in cycling animals proliferation was increased. Differences in OSE proliferation were observed in relation to the local underlying tissue environment in both sheep and marmoset. Epithelial cell rupture and regeneration enhanced the hormonal mitogenic action on epithelial cells, which showed highest proliferation over corpora lutea in each animal model. To test the hypothesis that these changes are mediated by hormones or growth factors ovine OSE cells were cultured and proliferative activity monitored after treatment with several factors: fetal calf serum (FCS), follicular fluid from follicles of varying sizes, corpora lutea extracts, recombinant human IGF-1, oestradiol and progesterone. IGF alone was demonstrated to have an affect on increasing proliferation of cultured OSE cells. Levels of FSHr and LHr were monitored by quantitative real- time PCR and it was demonstrated that the concentration of gonadotrophin receptors in OSE, increased prior to and after ovulation, at which time the in vivo OSE proliferation also peaked. The in situ apoptosis index was determined in bovine tissue using TUNEL throughout the regular cycle, and at mid and late-pregnancy stages. The results showed that pregnancy induced apoptotic activity in OSE cells and up regulated the tumour suppressor gene p53. Cultured bovine OSE cells also exhibited an increased level of apoptosis following progesterone treatment. Since p53/p53 gene expression in OSE over the corpora lutea producing progesterone also increased, this progesterone-mediated apoptosis may be mediated through an up-regulation of p53 synthesis. The effect of pregnancy and low production of gonadotrophins in the regulation of OSE cell morphology and activity was further investigated in the marmoset monkey (a non-human primate) treated with GnRH antagonist and infused with BrdU to monitor proliferative activity. OSE proliferation was correlated to ovarian events (follicular growth, ovulation and luteinization) and this was suppressed during pregnancy. Inhibition of gonadotrophin secretion by treatment with a GnRH antagonist also markedly inhibited OSE proliferation. Taken together these studies support the hypothesis that pregnancy and periods of anovulation reduce proliferation of OSE cells and alter the pattern of apoptotic cell death and that this effect is independent of species and reproductive pattern. Suppression of gonadotrophins and other growth factors during pregnancy could enhance p53-mediated apoptosis of damaged and mitogenic cells arising from repeated ovulations. This effect may partly explain why increasing number of pregnancies in woman reduces the chance of epithelial ovarian cancers.