Professor Andrew Horne
Professor of Gynaecology and Reproductive
MRC Centre for Reproductive Health,
University of Edinburgh,
Professor Norah Spears
Norah Spears, D Phil
Professor of Reproductive Physiology,
Centre for Integrative Physiology,
University of Edinburgh,
Meet the Editorial Board

Kisspeptin, a hypothalamic neuropeptide encoded by the KISS1 gene, has a pivotal role in promoting GnRH secretion in mammals. Kisspeptin and its receptor (KISS1R) are also expressed in certain peripheral tissues including gonads, suggesting intra-gonadal roles. Such actions at the level of the bovine ovary have not been explored previously. The current aims were to determine whether KISS1 and its receptor (KISS1R) are expressed in the bovine ovary and whether kisspeptin or a kisspeptin antagonist can modulate ovarian steroid production by cultured ovarian cells. Granulosa (GC) and theca interna (TC) were collected from antral follicles (3-18 mm) categorized into five class sizes. Early, mid and regressing corpora lutea (CL) were also collected for RT-qPCR analysis of KISS1 and KISS1R expression. Bovine TC and GC cultured under both non-luteinizing (serum-free) and luteinizing (serum-supplemented) conditions were treated for 4 days with kisspeptin-10 (10-10-10-6M) or kisspeptin antagonist (p234; 10-10-10-6M), alone and in combination with either FSH (GC), LH (TC) or forskolin (luteinized GC/TC). Steroid secretion (GC: oestradiol, progesterone; TC: androstenedione, progesterone; luteinized GC/TC: progesterone) was measured by ELISA and viable cell number determined by neutral red uptake assay. KISS1 and KISS1R transcripts were detected in TC, GC and CL with significant differences between follicle categories and CL stages. However, neither kisspeptin-10 nor kisspeptin antagonist affected steroid secretion or viable cell number in any of the four ovarian cell culture models. As such, the hypothesis that kisspeptin has a direct intra-ovarian role to modulate follicular or luteal steroidogenesis, or cell proliferation/survival, is not supported.

Follicular fluid (FF), a product of vascular transudate and granulosa and thecal cell secretions, is the milieu that has evolved to support oocyte growth and maturation which plays a central role in oocyte quality determination. Therefore, a suboptimal FF composition may be reflected in compromised oocyte progression through maturation, fertilization, or embryo development. To date, the composition of bovine FF remains understudied. To address this, we comprehensively characterized the metabolomic constituency of bovine FF in the period during which the oocyte undergoes meiotic maturation. More specifically, FF from pre (−24 h) and peri (−2 h)-ovulatory follicles was profiled by high-throughput untargeted ultra-HPLC tandem mass spectroscopy. A total of 634 metabolites were identified, comprising lipids (37.1%), amino acids (30.0%), xenobiotics (11.5%), nucleotides (6.8%), carbohydrates (4.4%), cofactors and vitamins (4.4%), peptides (3.6%), and energy substrates (2.1%). The concentrations of 67 metabolites were significantly affected by the stage of follicle development, 33.3% (n = 21) were reduced (P ≤ 0.05) by a mean of 9.0-fold, whereas 46 were elevated (P ≤ 0.05) by a mean of 1.7-fold in peri- vs pre-ovulatory FF. The most pronounced individual metabolite concentration decreases were observed in hypoxanthine (98.9-fold), xanthine (65.7-fold), 17β-oestradiol (12.4-fold), and inosine (4.6-fold). In contrast, the greatest increases were in retinal (4.9-fold), 1-methyl-5-imidazoleacetate (2.7-fold), and isovalerylcarnitine (2.7-fold). This global metabolomic analysis of bovine FF temporal dynamics provides new information for understanding the environment supporting oocyte maturation and facilitating ovulation that has the potential for improving oocyte quality both invivo and in vitro.

Lay Summary

The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system, and they produce and store eggs in structures known as ‘follicles’. Depending on the species, one or more follicles release an egg from the ovary during ovulation. FF, which is formed from the secretions of follicle cells and substances delivered from the bloodstream, bathes the eggs as they develop within their follicles. For pregnancy to happen, the egg must be capable of being fertilised by a sperm cell, developing into an embryo and implanting it in the womb. FF has evolved to support the egg to achieve this. Using the cow as a model, this study looks at the composition of FF during the final hours before ovulation, when the egg becomes mature and ready for fertilisation. More than 600 different substances were identified, providing new information, that has the potential to improve egg quality.


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