Survivin is a relatively unique member of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) family in that it contains a single baculovirus IAP repeat (BIR) domain combined with a COOH-terminal α-helix coiled-coil domain instead of the more common zinc-binding RING finger. Results from a variety of transformed or continuous mammalian cell lines suggest that, due to the combination of these features, Survivin is capable of regulating both cell proliferation and apoptotic cell death. However, to date there is essentially no information regarding Survivin expression, regulation or function within the ovary, or in any nonmammalian vertebrate species. In the present studies, cDNAs for chicken (ch) Survivin-142 (homologous to human Survivin-142) plus three alternatively spliced variants (ch Survivin-short, -γ, and -δ) are described, and of these, transcripts for ch Survivin-142 and -short are expressed in granulosa cells from the hen ovary. Highest levels of Survivin mRNA during follicle development occur in mitotically active granulosa cells from undifferentiated, prehierarchal follicles. Cell cycle analysis determined that Survivin mRNA expression is elevated specifically during the G2/M phase of mitosis. Significantly, transient transfection with ch Survivin-142 in primary cultures of hen granulosa cells attenuates taxol- and N-octanoylsphingosine- (C8-ceramide-) induced easpase-3 activity, whereas overexpression of ch Survivin-short (a truncated variant that lacks much of the functional BIR domain plus the entire α-helix coil domain) lacks this antiapoptotic activity. Taken together, these data provide evidence for Survivin in granulosa cells acting as a bifunctional protein associated with regulation of the cell cycle and the inhibition of apoptosis.
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