Analysis of apoptosis and expression of genes related to apoptosis in cultures of follicles derived from vitrified and non-vitrified ovaries.
The first objective of this study was to determine whether the death of bovine granulosa cells (GC) isolated from small (</= 4 mm), medium (5-8 mm), and large (> 8 mm) follicles during follicular atresia occurs by apoptosis. The second objective was to establish an in vitro model system to elucidate the developmental (GC from follicles of different sizes) and hormonal (FSH and insulin-like growth factor-I [IGF-I]) regulation of bovine GC apoptosis during follicular atresia. Bovine ovaries were obtained from a nearby slaughterhouse. Follicles were classified by morphometric criteria as healthy or atretic. Apoptosis in GC from follicles of different sizes was analyzed by both morphological and biochemical methods. Bovine GC were cultured for 48 h at a density of 5 x 10(6) cells/ml in serum-free media at 39 degrees C to determine the effects of FSH and IGF-I on apoptosis. The results showed that apoptosis occurred in GC from all sizes of follicles. Apoptosis in GC was also detected in some healthy follicles. Degenerate GC displayed the morphological characteristics of apoptosis, including nuclei with marginated chromatin, a single condensed nucleus, multiple nuclear fragments, and/or membrane-bound structures containing variable amounts of chromatin and/or cytoplasm (apoptotic bodies). All GC classified as apoptotic on the basis of their morphology contained fragmented DNA measured by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) technique. Cells that had undergone apoptosis were observed mainly in GC and in scattered theca cells. Throughout the GC layer, apoptotic cell death was more prevalent among antral GC than among mural GC. Interestingly, morphological results showed that no apoptosis occurred in cumulus cells. A time-dependent, spontaneous onset of apoptosis occurred in GC from small, medium, and large follicles during in vitro serum-free culture. The rate of DNA fragmentation in the culture of GC from small follicles was higher than that from medium and large follicles. FSH attenuated apoptotic cell death in GC from medium follicles more effectively than in those from small follicles. IGF-I also suppressed apoptosis in cultured GC from small follicles. In conclusion, this study showed that 1) GC death during bovine follicular development and atresia occurs by apoptosis; 2) apoptosis occurs in GC and theca cells; however, apoptosis does not occur in cumulus cells even in atretic antral follicles; 3) GC from all small, medium, and large follicles undergo spontaneous onset of apoptosis when cultured under serum-free conditions; and 4) FSH and IGF-I can attenuate apoptosis in cultured bovine GC.