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J Endocrinol. 2006 Feb;188(2):179-92.

Estrous cycle dependent changes in expression and distribution of Fas, Fas ligand, Bcl-2, Bax, and pro- and active caspase-3 in the rat ovary.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 2, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In the present investigation, the localization of proteins involved in ovarian apoptosis were studied throughout the estrous cycle in the presence of fluctuating hormone levels. Fas, Fas ligand, Bcl-2, Bax and caspase-3 mRNA expression and proteins were detected in all ovarian tissue extracts, though the amount of protein varied with the phase of the estrous cycle. Fas, Bax and caspase-3 protein levels were highest at diestrus and decreased thereafter towards metestrus. In contrast, Fas ligand and Bcl-2 protein levels were lowest at diestrus and increased toward metestrus. Immunohistochemistry revealed that the staining of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 was more pronounced in healthy preantral follicles than in atretic follicles. In contrast, the pro-apoptotic proteins Fas, Fas ligand, Bax and active caspase-3 were more predominantly present in atretic follicles. In the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE), Fas, procaspase-3 and Bcl-2 immunostaining appeared independent of the phase of the estrous cycle. Fas ligand and Bax staining was detected particularly during proestrus in OSE cells surrounding the ovulatory follicles, while active caspase-3 was observed only in OSE cells at the postovulatory site during estrus. The proportion of luteal cells that stained positively for Fas, Bax and caspase-3 increased with the age of the corpus luteum, while Fas ligand and Bcl-2 immunostaining was strongest in newly formed corpora lutea and decreased thereafter. In conclusion, the components of the Fas signalling pathway were differentially expressed throughout the estrous cycle in a variety of ovarian cell types, which may correspond to hormone dependent survival mechanisms.

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