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Apoptosis. 2013 Dec;18(12):1513-25. doi: 10.1007/s10495-013-0901-z.

Prohibitin (PHB) inhibits apoptosis in rat granulosa cells (GCs) through the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and the Bcl family of proteins.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Science Research Program, Morehouse School of Medicine, 720 Westview Drive Southwest, Atlanta, GA, 30310, USA.


Mammalian ovarian follicular development is tightly regulated by crosstalk between cell death and survival signals, which include both endocrine and intra-ovarian regulators. Whether the follicle ultimately ovulates or undergoes atresia is dependent on the expression and actions of factors promoting follicular cell proliferation, differentiation or apoptosis. Prohibitin (PHB) is a highly conserved, ubiquitous protein that is abundantly expressed in granulosa cells (GCs) and associated with GC differentiation and apoptosis. The current study was designed to characterize the regulation of anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic factors in undifferentiated rat GCs (gonadotropin independent phase) governed by PHB. Microarray technology was initially employed to identify potential apoptosis-related genes, whose expression levels within GCs were altered by either staurosporine (STS) alone or STS in presence of ectopically over-expressed PHB. Next, immunoblot studies were performed to examine the expression patterns of selective Bcl-2 family members identified by the microarray analysis, which are commonly regulated in the intrinsic-apoptotic pathway. These studies were designed to measure protein levels of Bcl2 family in relation to expression of the acidic isoform (phosphorylated) PHB and the components of MEK-Erk1/2 pathway. These studies indicated that over-expression of PHB in undifferentiated GCs inhibit apoptosis which concomitantly results in an increased level of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl2 and Bclxl, reduced release of cytochrome c from mitochondria and inhibition of caspase-3 activity. In contrast, silencing of PHB expression resulted in change of mitochondrial morphology from the regular reticular network to a fragmented form, which enhanced sensitization of these GCs to the induction of apoptosis. Collectively, these studies have provided new insights on the PHB-mediated anti-apoptotic mechanism, which occurs in undifferentiated GCs through a PHB → Mek-Erk1/2 → Bcl/Bcl-xL pathway and may have important clinical implications.

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