Effect of fibroblast growth factor signaling on cumulus expansion in mice in vitro

The expansion of cumulus cells associated with oocytes is an essential phenomenon in normal mammalian ovulation. Indeed, attenuated expression of cumulus expansion-related genes, including Has2, Ptgs2, Ptx3, and Tnfaip6, results in ovulation failure, leading to female subfertility or infertility. Moreover, emerging evidence suggests that proteins of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family, produced within ovarian follicles, regulate the development and function of cumulus cells; however, the effects of FGF signaling on cumulus expansion have not been investigated extensively. Herein, we investigate the effects of FGF signaling, particularly those of FGF8 secreted by oocytes, on epidermal growth factor-induced cumulus expansion in mice. The phosphorylation level of MAPK3/1, an intracellular mediator of FGF signaling, was significantly decreased in cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) following treatment with NVP-BGJ398, an FGF receptor inhibitor. Moreover, even though NVP-BGJ398 treatment did not affect cumulus cell expansion, it significantly upregulated the expression of Ptgs2 and Ptx3. In contrast, treatment with recombinant FGF8 did not affect the degree of cumulus expansion or the expression of expansion-related genes in COCs or oocytectomized cumulus cell complexes. Collectively, these results suggest that FGFs, other than FGF8, exert suppressive effects on the cumulus expansion process in mice.

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