The nuclear receptor steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1 [officially designated NR5A1]) is essential for fetal gonadal development, but its roles in postnatal ovarian function are less well defined. Herein, we have extended our analyses of knockout (KO) mice with markedly decreased SF-1 expression in granulosa cells. As described, these SF-1 KO mice had hypoplastic ovaries that contained a decreased number of follicles and lacked corpora lutea. In the present study, we showed that SF-1 KO mice exhibited abnormal estrous cycles, were infertile, and released significantly fewer oocytes in response to a standard superovulation regimen. Moreover, they had blunted induction of plasma estradiol in response to gonadotropins. The granulosa cell-specific SF-1 KO also significantly affected ovarian expression of putative SF-1 target genes. Consistent with their decreased follicle number, these mice had reduced ovarian expression of anti-müllerian hormone (Amh), which correlates with the reserve pool of ovarian follicles, as well as decreased gonadotropin-induced ovarian expression of aromatase (Cyp19a1) and cyclin D2 (Ccnd2). In contrast, perhaps because of their abnormal cyclicity, SF-1 KO ovaries had higher basal expression of inhibin-alpha. They also had decreased immunoreactivity for genes related to proliferation (Ccnd2 and Mki67 [also known as Ki67]) and increased expression of Cdkn1b, also known as p27, which inhibits cyclin-dependent kinases, arguing for a role of SF-1 in granulosa cell proliferation. These findings demonstrate that SF-1 has a key role in female reproduction via essential actions in granulosa cells.
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Vol. 79 • No. 6