The follistatin-288 isoform alone is sufficient for survival but not for normal fertility in mice

Endocrinology. 2010 Mar;151(3):1310-9. doi: 10.1210/en.2009-1176. Epub 2009 Dec 23.


Follistatin (FST) is a natural antagonist of activin and related TGFbeta superfamily ligands that exists as three protein isoforms differing in length at the C terminus. The longest FST315 isoform is found in the circulation, whereas the shortest FST288 isoform is typically found in or on cells and tissues, and the intermediate FST303 isoform is found in gonads. We recently demonstrated that the FST isoforms have distinct biological actions in vitro that, taken together with the differential distribution, suggests they may also have different roles in vivo. To explore the specific role of individual FST isoforms, we created a single-isoform FST288-only mouse. In contrast to the neonatal death of FST global knockout mice, FST288-only mice survive to adulthood. Although they appear normal, FST288-only mice have fertility defects including reduced litter size and frequency. Follicles were counted in ovaries from 8.5- to 400-d-old females. Significantly fewer morphologically healthy antral follicles were found in 100- to 250-d FST288-only ovaries, but there were significantly more secondary, primary, and primordial follicles detected at d 8.5 in FST288-only ovaries. However, depletion of this primordial follicle pool is more rapid in FST288-only females resulting in a deficit by 250 d of age and early cessation of reproduction. Superovulated FST288-only females have fewer ovulated eggs and embryos. These results indicate that the FST isoforms have different activities in vivo, that the FST288-only isoform is sufficient for development, and that loss of FST303 and FST315 isoforms results in fertility defects that resemble activin hyperactivity and premature ovarian failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Follistatin / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Ovary / metabolism*
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Reproduction*


  • Follistatin
  • Protein Isoforms
  • follistatin, 288-amino acid isoform