Oocyte development in the mammalian ovary requires productive interactions with somatic granulosa cells of the ovarian follicle. Proliferating granulosa cells support the progression of follicular growth and maturation, multiplying dramatically as it unfolds. The cell cycle recruitment of granulosa cells is regulated at least in part by hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen. Follicles recruited into the growth phase following formation of multiple layers of granulosa cells have two major fates: either to continue proliferation followed by differentiation, or to die by programmed cell death, or atresia. While many of the signaling pathways orchestrating ovarian follicle development are known, the downstream transcriptional regulators that integrate such signals in the mammalian ovary remain to be defined. Recent experiments in diverse organisms have revealed multiple instances of gonad-selective components of the basal transcriptional machinery. One such protein, TAF4b, is a gonadal-enriched coactivator subunit of the TFIID complex required for normal female fertility in the mouse. To determine the etiology of female infertility of the TAF4b-deficient mice, we have determined multiple functions of TAF4b during postnatal ovarian follicle development. Here we demonstrate that the TAF4b protein is expressed in the granulosa cell compartment of the mammalian ovarian follicle. Furthermore, TAF4b-deficient mouse ovaries contain reduced numbers of primordial as well as growing follicles and a concomitant increased proportion of apoptotic follicles in comparison to wild type counterparts. Importantly, TAF4b-null follicles are largely resistant to induction of proliferation in response to multiple hormonal stimuli including estrogen and FSH and demonstrate compromised granulosa cell survival. Together, these data suggest that TAF4b integrates a program of granulosa cell gene expression required for normal ovarian follicle survival and proliferation in response to diverse ovarian signaling events.
- Granulosa cells