Expression of gap junctional connexin proteins in ovine fetal ovaries: effects of maternal diet

A T Grazul-Bilska, K A Vonnahme, J J Bilski, E Borowczyk, D Soni, B Mikkelson, M L Johnson, L P Reynolds, D A Redmer, J S Caton
Domestic Animal Endocrinology 2011, 41 (4): 185-94
Gap junctions have been implicated in the regulation of cellular metabolism and the coordination of cellular functions during growth and differentiation of organs and tissues, and gap junctions play a major role in direct cell-cell communication. Gap junctional channels and connexin (Cx) proteins have been detected in adult ovaries in several species. Furthermore, it has been shown that several environmental factors, including maternal diet, may affect fetal organ growth and function. To determine whether maternal diet affects expression of Cx26, Cx32, Cx37, and Cx43 in fetal ovaries, sheep were fed a maintenance (M) diet with adequate (A) selenium (Se) or high (H) Se levels from 21 d before breeding to day 132 of pregnancy. From day 50 to 132 of pregnancy (tissue collection day), a portion of the ewes from the ASe and HSe groups was fed a restricted (R; 60% of M) diet. Sections of fetal ovaries were immunostained for the presence of Cxs followed by image analysis. All four Cxs were detected, but the distribution pattern differed. Cx26 was immunolocalized in the oocytes from primordial, primary, secondary, and antral follicles; in granulosa and theca layers of secondary and antral follicles; stroma; and blood vessels. Cx32 was in oocytes, granulosa, and theca cells in a portion of antral follicles; Cx37 was on the borders between oocyte and granulosa/cumulus cells of primordial to antral follicles and in endothelium; and Cx43 was on cellular borders in granulosa and theca layers and between oocyte and granulosa/cumulus cells of primordial to antral follicles. Maternal diet affected Cx26 and Cx43 expression, Cx26 in granulosa layer of antral follicles was decreased (P < 0.01) by HSe in the M and R diets, and Cx43 in granulosa layer of primary and granulosa and theca of antral follicles was increased (P < 0.05) by the M diet with HSe. Thus, Cxs may be differentially involved in regulation of fetal ovarian function in sheep. These data emphasize the importance of maternal diet in fetal growth and development.

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