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Mol Endocrinol. 1999 Jun;13(6):841-50.

Targeted expression of Bcl-2 in mouse oocytes inhibits ovarian follicle atresia and prevents spontaneous and chemotherapy-induced oocyte apoptosis in vitro.

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Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.


Members of the Bcl-2 family serve as central checkpoints for cell death regulation, and overexpression of Bcl-2 is known to inhibit apoptosis in many cell types. To determine whether targeted expression of Bcl-2 could be used to protect female germ cells from apoptosis, we generated transgenic mice expressing fully functional human Bcl-2 protein only in oocytes. Transgenic mice were produced using a previously characterized 480-bp fragment of the mouse zona pellucida protein-3 (ZP3) gene 5'-flanking region to direct oocyte-specific expression of a human bcl-2 complementary DNA. Immunohistochemical analyses using a human Bcl-2-specific antibody showed that transgene expression was restricted to growing oocytes and was not observed in the surrounding ovarian somatic cells or in any other nonovarian tissues. Histomorphometric analyses revealed that ovaries collected from transgenic female mice possessed significantly fewer atretic small preantral follicles compared with wild-type sisters, resulting in a larger population of healthy maturing follicles per ovary. However, the number of oocytes ovulated in response to exogenous gonadotropin priming and the number of pups per litter were not significantly different among wild-type vs. transgenic female mice. Nonetheless, oocytes obtained from transgenic mice and cultured in vitro were found to be resistant to spontaneous and anticancer drug-induced apoptosis. We conclude that targeted expression of Bcl-2 only in oocytes can be achieved as a means to convey resistance of the female germ line to naturally occurring and chemotherapy-induced apoptosis.

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