Growth and maturation of ovarian follicles in the hen (Gallus gallus) requires a network of blood vessels that increases in complexity during development. The present studies investigate expression of vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF), angiopoietin1 (ANGPT1) and ANGPT2 mRNAs together with their associated receptors (VEGFR and TIE2, respectively) during maturation. Elevated expression of VEGF and its receptors is associated with healthy, compared to atretic, follicles. Levels of VEGF significantly increase, while antagonistic ANGPT2 decrease, in granulosa cells (GC) at follicle selection. By comparison, levels of VEGF, VEGFR1, VEGFR2, ANGPT1, ANGPT2 and TIE2 within the theca layer do not change (P > 0.05) relative to developmental stages surrounding follicle selection (6–8 mm versus 9–12 mm follicles). Prior to selection, treatment with transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1) significantly increases levels of VEGF in undifferentiated GC from prehierarchal (6–8 mm) follicles and actively differentiating GC from selected (9–12 and F4) follicles. Moreover, subsequent to selection follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) increases VEGF expression in GC from 9 to 12 mm follicles, and eventually luteinizing hormone (LH) promotes VEGF expression in GC from more mature preovulatory follicles. It is concluded that prior to follicle selection VEGF expression is regulated by autocrine and paracrine actions of TGFβ1 (but not FSH), and that a comparatively limited extent of vasculature is sufficient to maintain prehierarchal follicles in a viable and undifferentiated state. At follicle selection, FSH- and subsequently LH-induced VEGF production within the GC layer enhance angiogenesis within the theca layer, which facilitates the rapid growth of preovulatory follicles via enhanced incorporation of yellow yolk.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology