PURPOSE: Thyroid disorders are clinically associated with impaired fertility in women, and these abnormalities can be improved by restoring the euthyroid state. The exact mechanisms of thyroid effect on female fertility are not well known; however, it is conceivable that thyroid hormones (THs) might act on ovarian physiology via receptors in granulosa cells. This work is aimed at evaluating the effects of THs on non-tumoral granulosa cells and follicles.
METHODS: Freshly isolated rat ovarian follicles and granulosa cells were exposed to T3 or T4 (THs). Cell growth and viability were evaluated by cell counting and the MTT assay, respectively, follicle growth was evaluated by volume measurements. Apoptosis was evaluated by the TUNEL assay and active Caspase 3 staining. rGROV cells were exposed to T3, and apoptosis was induced by serum deprivation. Bcl2, Bcl-2-associated X protein (BAX), Akt and pAkt expression were evaluated by western blot.
RESULTS: T3 induced a 40% increase in follicle volume (after 7 days). This increase was presumably due to the observed decrease (33%) in the apoptotic rate of the granulosa cell population. Both T3 and T4 caused a dose-dependent increase in rat granulosa cell number and viability. In addition, THs decreased the cell apoptotic rate in a dose-dependent manner. In both conditions, T3 appeared to be more efficient. In rGROV cells, 100 nM T3 induced cell growth and, in the absence of growth factors, reduced cell apoptosis by 40%, downregulating Caspase 3 and BAX. This effect was associated with an increase in pAkt levels. The involvement of the PI3 K pathway was confirmed by the ability of the PI3 K specific inhibitor (LY-294,002) to abolish T3 pro-survival action.
CONCLUSIONS: THs influence cell survival of ovarian granulosa cells. This effect likely contributes to the TH-induced follicle volume increase.