FOXL2 encodes a forkhead transcription factor that plays important roles in the ovary during development and in post-natal, adult life. Here, we focus on the clinical consequences of FOXL2 impairment in human disease. In line with other forkhead transcription factors, its constitutional genetic defects and a somatic mutation lead to developmental disease and cancer, respectively. More than 100 unique constitutional mutations and regulatory defects have been found in blepharophimosis syndrome (BPES), a complex eyelid malformation associated (type I) or not (type II) with premature ovarian failure (POF). In agreement with the BPES phenotype, FOXL2 is expressed in the developing eyelids and in fetal and adult ovaries. Two knock-out mice and at least one natural animal model, the Polled Intersex Syndrome goat, are known. They recapitulate the BPES phenotype and have provided many insights into the ovarian pathology. Only a few constitutional mutations have been described in nonsyndromic POF. Moreover, a recurrent somatic mutation p.C134W was found to be specific for adult ovarian granulo-sa cell tumors. Functional studies investigating the consequences of FOXL2 mutations or regulatory defects have shed light on the molecular pathogenesis of the aforementioned conditions, and contributed considerably to genotype-phenotype correlations. Recently, a conditional knock-out of Foxl2 in the mouse induced somatic transdifferentiation of ovary into testis in adult mice, suggesting that Foxl2 has an anti-testis function in the adult ovary. This changed our view on the ovary and testis as terminally differentiated organs in adult mammals. Finally, this might have potential implications for the understanding and treatment of frequent conditions such as POF and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Copyright © 2012 S. Karger AG, Basel.