Essential factors required for growing oocytes derived from bovine early antral follicles and their mechanisms of action are poorly understood. Fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF7) is a member of the heparin-binding FGF family with a distinctive pattern of target-cell specificity. The effect of FGF7 on the stimulation of oocyte growth in a culture of cumulus-oocyte complexes with granulosa cells (COCGs, oocyte diameter; 90-100 microm) was investigated. The oocyte diameter of COCGs was increased significantly in the FGF7-containing medium (10 ng/ml; 117.2 +/- 3.2 microm, 50 ng/ml; 116.5 +/- 3.5 microm) compared to the control (0 ng/ml; 110.5 +/- 2.8 microm) after 16 days. However, there was no stimulatory effect of FGF7 on the proliferation of cumulus-granulosa cells. The FGF7 receptor, fibroblast growth factor receptor 2IIIb (FGFR2IIIb), was detected in cumulus-granulosa cells from COCGs. Messenger RNA expression of FGFR2IIIb was induced to cumulus-granulosa cells by FGF7. The mRNA expression levels of KIT ligand (KITLG), KIT (KIT), growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9), and bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) in the cultured COCGs were determined in FGF7-treated (10 ng/ml) cultures using real time RT-PCR analysis. The levels of KITLG and KIT, but not GDF9 and BMP15 mRNA expression were stimulated by FGF7. Furthermore, neutralizing antibody for KIT attenuated the stimulatory action of FGF7 on the oocyte growth. These results strongly suggest that FGF7 may be an important regulator for oocyte growth and its action is mediated via the KIT/KITLG signaling pathway.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.