In vitro follicle growth has emerged as a technology that can provide new information about folliculogenesis and serve as part of a suite of methods currently under development to assist women whose fertility is threatened by cancer treatments. Though it has been shown that in vitro-grown follicles secrete peptide and steroid hormones, much of the follicular transcriptome remains unknown. Thus, microarray analysis was performed to characterize the transcriptome and secretome of in vitro-grown follicles. One prominently regulated gene product was cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (Comp): its mRNA was upregulated during the final 4 days of culture (P < 0.05) and COMP protein could be detected in medium from individual follicles. COMP expression localized to mural granulosa cells of large antral follicles both in vitro and in vivo, with maximal expression immediately preceding ovulation in cycling and chorionic gonadotropin-primed female mice. COMP was co-expressed with two known markers of follicle maturation, inhibin β(A) and gremlin, and was expressed only in TUNEL-negative follicles. In addition to other gene products identified in the microarray, COMP has potential utility as a marker of follicle maturation.
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