The mechanisms whereby the high variation in numbers of morphologically healthy oocytes and follicles in ovaries (ovarian reserve) may have an impact onovarian function, oocyte quality, and fertility are poorly understood. The objective was to determine whether previously validated biomarkers for follicular differentiation and function, as well as oocyte quality differed between cattle with low versus a high antral follicle count (AFC). Ovaries were removed (n = 5 per group) near the beginning of the nonovulatory follicular wave, before follicles could be identified via ultrasonography as being dominant, from heifers with high versus a low AFC. The F1, F2, and F3 follicles were dissected and diameters determined. Follicular fluid and thecal, granulosal, and cumulus cells and the oocyte were isolated and subjected to biomarker analyses. Although the size and numerous biomarkers of differentiation, such as mRNAs for the gonadotropin receptors, were similar, intrafollicular concentrations of estradiol and the abundance of mRNAs for CYP19A1 in granulosal cells and ESR1, ESR2, and CTSB in cumulus cells were greater, whereas mRNAs for AMH in granulosal cells and TBC1D1 in thecal cells were lower for animals with low versus a high AFC during follicle waves. Hence, variation in the ovarian reserve may have an impact on follicular function and oocyte quality via alterations in intrafollicular estradiol production and expression of key genes involved in follicle-stimulating hormone action (AMH) and estradiol (CYP19A1) production by granulosal cells, function and survival of thecal cells (TBC1D1), responsiveness of cumulus cells to estradiol (ESR1, ESR2), and cumulus cell determinants of oocyte quality (CTSB).
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Vol. 80 • No. 5