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A dose-response study on functional and transcriptomic effects of FSH on ex vivo mouse folliculogenesis.

Endocrinology 2024 May 14
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) binds to its membrane receptor (FSHR) in granulosa cells to activate various signal transduction pathways and drive the gonadotropin-dependent phase of folliculogenesis. Poor female reproductive outcomes can result from both FSH insufficiency owing to genetic or non-genetic factors and FSH excess as encountered with ovarian stimulation in assisted reproductive technology (ART), but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Herein, we conducted single-follicle and single-oocyte RNA sequencing analysis along with other approaches in an ex vivo mouse folliculogenesis and oogenesis system to investigate the effects of different concentrations of FSH on key follicular events. Our study revealed that a minimum FSH threshold is required for follicle maturation into the high estradiol-secreting preovulatory stage, and such threshold is moderately variable among individual follicles between 5-10 mIU/mL. FSH at 5, 10, 20, and 30 mIU/mL induced distinct expression patterns of follicle maturation-related genes, follicular transcriptomics, and follicular cAMP levels. RNA-seq analysis identified FSH-stimulated activation of G proteins and downstream canonical and novel signaling pathways that may critically regulate follicle maturation, including the cAMP/PKA/CREB, PI3K-AKT/FOXO1, and glycolysis pathways. High FSH at 20 and 30 mIU/mL resulted in non-canonical FSH responses including premature luteinization, high production of androgen and proinflammatory factors, and reduced expression of energy metabolism-related genes in oocytes. Together, this study improves our understanding of gonadotropin-dependent folliculogenesis and provides crucial insights into how high doses of FSH used in ART may impact follicular health, oocyte quality, pregnancy outcome, and systemic health.

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