Human and rat granulosa cells express receptors to leptin which synergies with glucocorticoid hormones in stimulation of ovarian steroidogenesis. To examine whether leptin affects follicular development and maturation, we injected recombinant ovine leptin (300 ng-10 μg/animal) daily to immature 21 day-old female rats. Non-treated rats reached puberty at 44.5±1.6 (n=9) days. In contrast, in leptin treated animals, puberty was reached at 34.5±1.6 (n=9) days. Ovarian sections revealed hypertrophy of granulosa cells in leptin treated animals. Moreover, the number of ovulations was 2-fold higher in the treated animals compared to controls (3-4 ovulations versus 7-8 on the first three estrous cycles, P<0.001). Leptin dramatically reduced incidence of follicular apoptosis measured by TUNEL, and was already evident after 7 days of leptin injection (12% of apoptosis in leptin treated group compared to 52% in controls, P<0.001). Maximal protection against apoptosis was achieved at 1-3 μg leptin/animal. The levels of FSH, LH, progesterone and the steroidogenic factors ADX and STAR were elevated earlier in development in the leptin treated animals compared to control animals which is in line with the achievement of early puberty in the leptin treated animals compared to non treated ones. To reveal whether modulation of death and survival genes is involved in leptin attenuation of follicular apoptosis, we examined the expression of the survival gene Bcl-2 and the death gene Bax in Western blots of ovarian homogenates. There was a pronounced elevation in Bcl-2 expression during 7-14 days of leptin injections up to 16.3-fold (P<0.001) compared to Bcl-2 expression in controls. Bax expression was elevated only 3.4 fold (P<0.001), leading to an increase in the Bcl-2/Bax ratio of 4.7 fold (P<0.001). Expression of the tumor suppressor gene p 53 and the oncogene Mdm2 did not change significantly. Our data suggests that leptin may be involved in accelerating follicular maturation by attenuating follicular atresia and increasing the ratio of Bcl-2/Bax.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr M. Walker for helpful discussions and Ms Vivienne Laufer and Roslyn Silver for excellent typing assistance, Dr M. Oren for generously providing antibodies to p53 and Mdm2. This work was supported by a grant from the Israel Academy of Science. AA is the incumbent of the Joyce and Ben B. Eisenberg Professorial Chair in Molecular Endocrinology and Cancer Research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology