In vertebrate epithelia, the tight junction (TJ) complex plays an important role in the regulation of paracellular permeability and contributes to mechanical stability. Using zebrafish, this study examined the possibility that TJ protein 'machinery' may contribute to the complex process of ovarian follicle development in fishes and be responsive to key endocrine factors that assist in the regulation of this event. Transcript encoding for 18 zebrafish claudin (cldn) and 2 occludin (ocln) orthologs were widely distributed in zebrafish tissues. All orthologs were detected in the ovary, albeit at varying levels of abundance. Using occludin as a marker, TJs localized to the periphery of ovarian follicles, corresponding to the position of granulosa and theca cells. Of the 20 orthologs examined, mRNA encoding for cldn g, d, and ocln were most abundant in whole ovary. As follicles transitioned from pre-vitellogenic to mid-/late-stage vitellogenic status, mRNA encoding for cldn a, b, d, g, h and 19 significantly declined. Transcript encoding for other orthologs (i.e. cldn c, e, f, i, j, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, ocln and ocln b) did not significantly alter during follicle development. Exogenous 17beta-estradiol had little effect on TJ machinery in pre-vitellogenic follicles, but reduced the abundance of cldn h and 10 in mid- to late-stage vitellogenic follicles. In mid-vitellogenic follicles human chorionic gonadotropin increased cldn d and g mRNA abundance, whereas maturation inducing hormone reduced cldn h and 19 mRNA abundance. The data supports a role for the endocrine regulation of TJ proteins in ovarian follicle development.
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