In mammalian ovaries, terminal follicular growth is accompanied by a decrease in levels of intrafollicular insulin-like growth factor binding protein-2 (IGFBP-2) and IGFBP-4. The decrease in IGFBP-4 is essentially due to an increase in proteolytic degradation by intrafollicular pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) in growing healthy follicles. In contrast, the decrease in IGFBP-2 is partly due to a decrease in mRNA expression by follicular cells and also to an increase in IGFBP-2 proteolytic degradation, as previously shown in ewes and sows. In the present work we show that bovine and porcine preovulatory follicular fluid contains a proteolytic activity that degrades IGFBP-2. Bovine and porcine preovulatory follicular fluids contain undetectable levels of native IGFBP-2 as assessed by Western ligand blotting in comparison with the corresponding serum. In contrast, much higher levels of 23- and 12-kDa proteolytic fragments were found by immunoblotting in bovine and porcine preovulatory follicular fluid than in the corresponding serum. Moreover, bovine and porcine preovulatory follicular fluids were able to induce proteolytic degradation of exogenous IGFBP-2, and this degradation was enhanced by insulin-like growth factors. Intrafollicular IGFBP-2 proteolytic activity was surprisingly immunoneutralized in both species by a polyclonal antibody raised against human PAPP-A. In addition, recombinant human PAPP-A (rhPAPP-A) was able to cleave IGFBP-2 between Gln165 and Met166 in vitro, generating 23- and 12-kDa proteolytic fragments. IGFBP-2 was shown to be less sensitive than IGFBP-4 to cleavage by rhPAPP-A in vitro. As in follicular fluid, cleavage of IGFBP-2 by rhPAPP-A was dose-dependently enhanced by IGFs and inhibited by a peptide derived from the heparin-binding domain of IGFBP-5 (P5). Finally, Biacore analysis showed that P5 peptide-induced inhibition of IGFBP-2 cleavage was due to a direct interaction of P5 with PAPP-A rather than with IGFBP-2. Overall, these data show that in bovine and porcine preovulatory follicles, PAPP-A is responsible for IGF-dependent IGFBP-2 degradation. During follicular growth, the increase in IGFBP-2 cleavage by PAPP-A, as well as the decrease in IGFBP-2 expression, are responsible for the decrease in intact IGFBP-2 levels and the increase in IGF bioavailability. In atretic follicles, the increase and decrease in IGFBP-2 and PAPP-A mRNA expression, respectively, as well as the inhibition of PAPP-A activity by heparin-binding domains present in IGFBP-5 or other proteins, might participate in higher IGFBP-2 levels and a decrease in IGF bioavailability.
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