Anti-Müllerian hormone inhibits activation and growth of bovine ovarian follicles in vitro and is localized to growing follicles

M Y Yang, R A Cushman, J E Fortune
Molecular Human Reproduction 2017 May 1, 23 (5): 282-291

STUDY QUESTION: Does anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) inhibit activation (initiation of growth) of primordial follicles and attenuate the growth of primary follicles in cattle, an excellent animal model for human ovarian follicular development?

SUMMARY ANSWER: AMH inhibited activation of bovine primordial follicles and attenuated the growth of activated follicles in vitro.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: In mice null mutant for AMH, the pool of primordial follicles is depleted prematurely and AMH inhibits follicle activation in vitro. Results of studies with human ovarian tissue in vitro were inconsistent. Our previous work provided indirect evidence that AMH inhibits follicle activation in bovine ovaries.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Pieces of fetal bovine ovarian cortex (2 pieces/culture well), obtained during mid or late pregnancy, were cultured in control medium or with graded doses of AMH for 2, 10 or 12 days. Effects of treatment on follicle activation and growth were determined by histological morphometry; follicles in every 20th histological section were staged (primordial or primary), counted, and measured. In addition, AMH was immunolocalized in bovine ovaries obtained at various times during pregnancy (n = 20 ovaries).

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Bovine fetal ovaries at mid or late gestation were obtained at a commercial abattoir. Pieces of ovarian cortex were cultured without or with AMH and fixed for histological morphometry on Day 0 and at the end of culture. Treatments were applied to duplicate cultures from each of two or three fetuses. In 12-day cultures, addition of AMH was delayed until the third day. Histological analysis provided information about the types, numbers and sizes of follicles in cortical pieces before and after treatments. Ovaries obtained during the second and third trimesters were assessed for the presence of AMH by immunohistochemistry.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: AMH (100-500 ng/ml) inhibited follicle activation in response to an activator (insulin) in ovarian cortical pieces from fetal ovaries in late gestation. Dose-dependent inhibitory effects on the diameters of primary follicles and their oocytes were also observed. These results were obtained only when AMH was added to cultures in advance of insulin (presumably because it penetrates tissue more slowly than insulin). Results of experiments with cortical pieces from fetal ovaries at mid-gestation, when follicles are forming, showed that AMH did not inhibit the formation of follicles. Immunohistochemical localization of AMH showed that it is not present in fetal ovaries until the third trimester, when it was localized to the granulosa cells of secondary and small antral follicles.

LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: The experiments were performed with fetal ovaries because follicles form and follicle activation begins during fetal life in cattle (as it does in humans), so fetal ovarian cortex of later gestation provides tissue rich in primordial follicles. We assume, but have no experimental evidence, that our findings also apply to post-natal ovaries.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Although circulating AMH is used as an indication of the follicular reserve in women, little is known about AMH in human ovaries. Cattle are an excellent non-primate model for human ovarian follicular development and, hence, the findings suggest similar roles for AMH in human follicular development.

LARGE SCALE DATA: Not applicable.

STUDY FUNDNG/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This research was supported by National Research Initiative Competitive Grants no. 00-35203-9151, 2003-35203-13532, and 2008-35203-05989) from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to JEF and by an NIH National Research Service Award (F32 HD08264) to RAC. There are no conflicts of interest or competing interests.

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