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Follicular fluid-derived exosomal LncRNA LIPE-AS1 modulates steroid metabolism and survival of granulosa cells leading to oocyte maturation arrest in polycystic ovary syndrome.

OBJECTIVE: Women who are of reproductive age can suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder. Anovulatory infertility is mostly caused by aberrant follicular development, which is seen in PCOS patients. Due to the dysfunction of reproductive and endocrine function in PCOS patients, assisted reproduction treatment is one of the main means to obtain clinical pregnancy for PCOS patients. Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) as a group of functional RNA molecules have been found to participate in the regulation of oocyte function, hormone metabolism, and proliferation and apoptosis of granulosa cells. In this study, we investigated the role of lncRNAs in follicular fluid-derived exosomes and the underlying mechanism of lncRNA LIPE-AS1.

METHODS: We used RNA sequencing to analyze the lncRNA profiles of follicular fluid-derived exosomes in PCOS patients and controls. RT-qPCR was performed to detect the expression levels of these lncRNAs in control (n = 30) and PCOS (n = 30) FF exosome samples. Furthermore, we validated the performance of lncRNA LIPE-AS1 in oocyte maturation by in vitro maturation (IVM) experiments in mouse and steroid metabolism in granulosa cells.

RESULTS: We found 501 lncRNAs were exclusively expressed in the control group and another 273 lncRNAs were found to be specifically expressed in the PCOS group. LncRNA LIPE-AS1, highly expressed in PCOS exosomes, was related to a poor oocyte maturation and embryo development in PCOS patients. Reduced number of MII oocytes were observed in the LIPE-AS1 group by in vitro maturation (IVM) experiments in mouse. LIPE-AS1 was also shown to modulate steroid metabolism and granulosa cell proliferation and apoptosis by LIPE-AS1/miR-4306/LHCGR axis.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggested that the increased expression of LIPE-AS1, facilitated by follicular fluid exosomes, had a significant impact on both oocyte maturation and embryo development. We demonstrated the ceRNA mechanism involving LIPE-AS1, miR-4306, and LHCGR as a regulator of hormone production and metabolism. These findings indicate that LIPE-AS1 is essential in PCOS oocyte maturation and revealed a ceRNA network of LIPE-AS1 and provided new information on abnormal steroid metabolism and oocyte development in PCOS.

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