In female vertebrate animals that ovulate a limited number of oocytes (eggs) per ovulation cycle (e.g., mammals, birds, some reptiles), it is the process of ovarian follicle selection that represents the rate-limiting step to fecundity. Follicle selection entails the selective recruitment of one (or more) undifferentiated follicle(s) into the final stages of maturation prior to ovulation, yet the underlying mechanisms of this process are currently undefined in any vertebrate species. Ultimately, the selection mechanism determines the maximum number of offspring that can be produced within any given reproductive cycle. The present studies will test the hypothesis that the inability of undifferentiated follicles to spontaneously undergo follicle selection is normally due to the active suppression of one or more genes (e.g., the Follicle Stimulating Hormone receptor; FSHR) that are required for the differentiation of the follicle's granulosa cell layer. Importantly, it is the granulosa cell layer that nurtures the oocyte throughout follicle development. A second hypothesis to be tested is that at the time of follicle selection there is a switch from a negative regulation of FSHR gene expression to an upregulation of expression. This event is widely assumed to be prerequisite for the maturation of ovarian follicles to the preovulatory stage. The experimental design incorporates cellular and molecular techniques directed at identifying genomic mechanisms by which the expression of genes critical to this selection process in chickens is repressed or enhanced. Results from these studies are predicted to impact our ability to enhance female fertility in endangered species and domesticated food animals, and to better understand select causes of infertility in women. More broadly, the proposed research will serve to provide relevant and cutting-edge training to undergraduate and graduate students (including those from underrepresented populations) whose career goals include teaching and/or research.
|Effective start/end date
|9/1/09 → 1/31/13
- National Science Foundation: $372,827.00