It has been suggested that locally produced insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 (IGFBP4) inhibits ovarian follicular growth and ovulation by interfering with IGF action. According to this hypothesis, IGFBP4-expressing follicles should demonstrate atresia, whereas healthy dominant follicles should be devoid of IGFBP4. Alternatively, according to this view, there could be constitutive expression of the inhibitory IGFBP4 but selective expression of an IGFBP4 protease in dominant follicles, allowing the follicle to mature and ovulate because of degradation of the binding protein. To examine these views concerning the role of IGFBP4 in primate follicular selection, we analyzed cellular patterns of IGFs 1 and 2, IGFBP4, and the IGFBP4 protease (pregnancy-associated plasma protein A [PAPP-A]) mRNA expression in ovaries from late follicular phase rhesus monkeys using in situ hybridization. The IGF1 mRNA was not detected, but the IGF2 mRNA was abundant in theca interna and externa of all antral follicles and was present in the granulosa of large preovulatory and ovulatory follicles. The IGFBP4 mRNA was selectively expressed by LH receptor (LHR) mRNA-positive theca interna cells of healthy antral follicles (defined by aromatase and gonadotropin receptor expression) and by LHR-expressing granulosa cells found only in large preovulatory and ovulatory follicles (defined by size and aromatase expression). The PAPP-A mRNA was abundant in granulosa cells of most follicles without obvious relation to IGFBP4 expression. Ovarian IGFBP4 mRNA levels were markedly increased after treatment with the LH analog, hCG, whereas IGF2 and PAPP-A mRNAs were not significantly altered. In summary, IGFBP4 expression appears to be associated with follicular selection, not with atresia, in the monkey ovary. The IGFBP4 is consistently expressed in healthy theca interna and in luteinized granulosa cells, likely under LH regulation. The IGFBP4 protease, PAPP-A, is widely expressed without apparent selectivity for IGFBP4-expressing follicles or for dominant follicles. These observations suggest that IGFBP4 or an IGFBP4 proteolytic product may be involved with LH-induced steroidogenesis and/or luteinization rather than with inhibition of follicular growth.
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