Background: Expression and selective cellular localization of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and its receptor in ovarian tissue imply an autocrine/paracrine role in ovarian function. Evidence indicating a functional role for GM-CSF in ovarian follicular cell function has been provided by studies with GM-CSF knockout (GM-/-) mice, which suggest that GM-CSF influences events associated with murine follicular maturation.
Methods: Immature female rats were treated with GM-CSF, FSH or saline for 5 or 10 days. Ovaries were collected for histologic examination and immunostaining determination of CYP17, a theca cell marker. In addition, ovarian section slides were evaluated by immunofluorescence for CD45, an ovarian leukocyte marker. To investigate the possible mechanism of GM-CSF action on follicular development, theca-interstitial cells (T-I) were separated and cultured. Cells were treated with increasing concentrations of GM-CSF, then evaluated for CYP17 mRNA and protein expression assays.
Results: After 10 days of treatment with GM-CSF, the number of small preantral and large preantral follicles was significantly increased compared with the control group (P < 0.05). Similarly, treatment with FSH increased the number of small preantral and large preantral follicles (P < 0.05). CD45 expression measured by immunofluorescence was not different in the three groups, indicating that the distribution of leukocytes was unchanged. In addition, CYP17 was increased in the T-I cells both in vivo and in vitro after GM-CSF treatment.
Conclusion: The present results suggest that GM-CSF may play a significant role in follicular development.