Ovulation involves reorganization of the extracellular matrix of the follicle. This study examines the expression, localization, and potential function of the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP3) during ovulation in women. The dominant follicle of the menstrual cycle was collected at specified times throughout the ovulatory process: pre-, early, late, and postovulatory. For quantitative studies, the follicle was bisected; granulosa and theca cells were separated and collected. For immunohistochemistry (IHC), the intact follicle was embedded and TIMP3 was localized. Additionally, granulosa cells were collected from women undergoing in vitro fertilization and treated with increasing concentrations of recombinant TIMP3, and cell viability was assessed. Real-time PCR for TIMP3 mRNA revealed an increase in TIMP3 mRNA expression in granulosa cells from the early to the late ovulatory stage. Thecal TIMP3 mRNA expression was constitutive across the periovulatory period. TIMP3 protein was localized by IHC to the granulosa and theca cell layers in pre-, early, and late ovulatory follicles as well as to the vascular bed. The staining was most intense in the granulosa and theca cells in the late ovulatory group. Treatment of human granulosa-lutein cells with exogenous recombinant TIMP3 for 24 h decreased cell viability by 60%. Using human follicles collected throughout the periovulatory period of the menstrual cycle, we have demonstrated that TIMP3 mRNA expression increases and that TIMP3 protein is in the appropriate cellular layers to regulate proteolytic remodeling as the follicle progresses toward ovulation. In addition, we have shown that elevated levels of TIMP3 lead to decreased cell viability.
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Vol. 89 • No. 5