Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-binding protein (IGFBP) 7 is a secreted protein that regulates cellular proliferation, adhesion, and angiogenesis, and has low affinity for IGF compared with that of IGFBP1-IGFBP6. We sought to determine whether IGFBP7 is present in follicular fluid and to elucidate whether IGFBP7 participates in the steroidogenesis of rat mature follicles. Follicular fluid and granulosa cells (GCs) were collected from immature rats 2 days after their treatment with equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG). IGFBP7 protein was detected in the follicular fluid and the conditioned medium of cultured ovarian GCs by immunoblot analysis. When subconfluent GCs were cultured and treated with FSH and activin, coincubation with FSH and activin markedly increased GC expression of Cyp19a1 (aromatase) mRNA and 17beta-estradiol (E2) secretion. The addition of recombinant murine IGFBP7 to these cultures decreased in the activin-enhanced, FSH-stimulated Cyp19a1 mRNA levels in the cells and suppressed the 17beta-E2 levels in the culture medium. Treatment of GCs with Igfbp7-specific small interfering RNA (siRNA), which knocked down Igfbp7 expression, increased the FSH-stimulated levels of Cyp19a1 but not Cyp11a1 expression. Basal and FSH-stimulated 17beta-E2 secretion into the culture medium was also enhanced by Igfbp7 siRNA. These results suggest that IGFBP7 suppresses estrogen production in GCs. These observations support the notion that this protein, which is secreted into the follicular fluid, may serve as an intraovarian factor that negatively regulates GC differentiation.
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Vol. 77 • No. 3