Remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM) occurs during antral follicle growth, and the plasminogen activators (PA) have been implicated in this process in rodents. In the present study, we measured the expression and secretion of PA and the PA inhibitor protease nexin-1 (SerpinE2) in antral and basal bovine granulosa cells from small (<6 mm), medium (6–8 mm), and large follicles (>8 mm) during 6 days of culture in serum-free medium. Casein zymography revealed that the cells secreted predominantly tissue-type PA (tPA) with urokinase (uPA) being associated mainly with cell lysates, and Western blot demonstrated that the cells secreted SerpinE2. Overall, secreted tPA activity was higher in cultures of cells from small follicles compared with large follicles, and secreted SerpinE2 levels were higher in cultures of cells from large follicles. In cultures of cells from small follicles, secreted tPA levels increased with time of culture for antral but not basal cells, and SerpinE2 levels increased with time for basal but not antral cells. In cultures of granulosa cells from large follicles, tPA activity increased significantly with time of culture, whereas SerpinE2 levels decreased. Cell-associated uPA activity decreased with time in cells from medium and large follicles. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction and Northern blot analysis showed that SerpinE2 secretion was regulated largely at the transcriptional level, whereas tPA secretion was not. The data suggest stage-dependent regulation of granulosa cell PA and SerpinE2 production, consistent with a role in ECM remodeling during follicle growth.
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