Granulosa cell-specific androgen receptors are critical regulators of ovarian development and function

Mol Endocrinol. 2010 Jul;24(7):1393-403. doi: 10.1210/me.2010-0006. Epub 2010 May 25.


The physiological significance of androgens in female reproduction was unclear until female mice with global knockout of androgen receptor (AR) expression were found to have reduced fertility with abnormal ovarian function. However, because ARs are expressed in a myriad of reproductive tissues, including the hypothalamus, pituitary, and various ovarian cells, the role of tissue-specific ARs in regulating female fertility remained unknown. To examine the importance of ovarian ARs in female reproduction, we generated granulosa cell (GC)- and oocyte-specific AR-knockout (ARKO) mice by crossing AR-flox mice with MisRIIcre (GC-specific) or growth differentiation factor growth differentiation factor-9cre (oocyte-specific) mice. Relative to heterozygous and wild-type mice, GC-specific ARKO mice had premature ovarian failure and were subfertile, with longer estrous cycles and fewer ovulated oocytes. In addition, ovaries from GC-specific knockout mice contained more preantral and atretic follicles, with fewer antral follicles and corpus lutea. Finally, in vitro growth of follicles from GC-specific AR-null mice was slower than follicles from wild-type animals. In contrast to GC-specific AR-null mice, fertility, estrous cycles, and ovarian morphology of oocyte-specific ARKO mice were normal, although androgens no longer promoted oocyte maturation in these animals. Together, our data indicate that nearly all reproductive phenotypes observed in global ARKO mice can be explained by the lack of AR expression in GCs. These GC-specific ARs appear to promote preantral follicle growth and prevent follicular atresia; thus they are essential for normal follicular development and fertility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Estrous Cycle / genetics
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Follicular Atresia / genetics
  • Granulosa Cells / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Oocytes / cytology
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology*


  • Receptors, Androgen