Regulation and manipulation of angiogenic factors: impact on ovarian function
Garside, Samantha Anne
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Angiogenesis is the growth of new blood vessels from existing vasculature; it requires the breakdown of existing blood vessel walls followed by the migration and proliferation of endothelial cells to form the new vessels. It is a complex process that is regulated by many pro- and anti-angiogenic factors and the roles of some of these factors are still unclear. Angiogenesis is a key feature of many pathological conditions including cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis so is an area of great research interest. There are several methods currently available for the study of angiogenesis, both in vitro and in vivo, and whilst all of these methods have enhanced understanding of angiogenesis, they also have limitations. The ovary is an excellent model for the study of angiogenesis as it undergoes intense vascular morphogenesis in a cyclical manner. The female reproductive system is unique as no other healthy adult tissue undergoes spontaneous angiogenesis. The tissues in the ovary undergo constant remodelling during both folliculogenesis and the formation and regression of the corpus luteum. Blood vessels are recruited from the ovarian stroma at the preantral stage to form vascular sheaths, in the thecal layer, which surround the developing follicle and supply nutrients, hormones and allow gaseous exchange. As follicular development progresses to the antral stage, when gonadotrophin-dependence is established, increased angiogenesis is essential to sustain development of the rapidly expanding follicle. Previous research into ovarian angiogenesis has focussed on the corpus luteum but the mechanisms of the regulation of angiogenesis during folliculogenesis need further elucidation. The work in this thesis aims to develop and utilise an in vitro angiogenesis assay using the culture of intact preantral and early antral follicles to provide a new approach to the study of follicular angiogenesis. During the course of this thesis this assay was utilised to investigate the effect of various factors on follicular angiogenesis and ovarian function. The role of the putative anti-angiogenic factor thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) in the regulation of physiological angiogenesis was investigated using the in vitro angiogenesis assay developed during the course of this thesis and the role of TSP-1 in normal ovarian function was investigated using the culture of isolated granulosa cells. The results suggest that TSP-1 is able to inhibit angiogenesis and that it has an extravascular role in the ovary, in vitro. These findings were extended to an in vivo angiogenesis model where follicular angiogenesis was assessed by quantitative immunohistochemistry for bromodeoxyuridine and the endothelial cell marker CD31. The extravascular role for TSP-1 was also further investigated in vivo and was assessed by quantitative immunohistochemistry for activated caspase-3. The results confirmed the findings of the in vitro study, indicating that TSP-1 has antiangiogenic action and acts to clear non-dominant follicles from the ovary through the induction of atresia. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the main factor involved in stimulating angiogenesis and many advances have been made into elucidating the role, and the mechanisms of action, of VEGF on angiogenesis. Angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) is considered to be one of the main factors acting in concert with VEGF to stabilise new blood vessels and its role in angiogenesis has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. This thesis investigates the effects of Ang-1 on follicular angiogenesis and development, using the in vitro angiogenesis assay, granulosa cell culture and RNA knockdown experiments. The results have shown that Ang-1 can induce follicular angiogenesis at high doses and that at low doses stimulates prosurvival pathways and inhibits apoptotic mediators. This thesis describes a novel in vitro culture system for the study of angiogenesis in ovarian follicles. Using this system the effects of various factors on follicular angiogenesis and on follicle development and survival have been investigated. Investigations into the mechanisms of action of these factors have also been performed. These studies have improved understanding of the regulation of follicular angiogenesis and have indicated extravascular roles for angiogenic factors in the ovary. Since angiogenesis is a key feature of many pathological conditions, the ability to manipulate angiogenesis and to investigate and quantify the effects of proor anti-angiogenic compounds may have important clinical implications.