Scientific reports

Rac1 modulates the formation of primordial follicles by facilitating STAT3-directed Jagged1, GDF9 and BMP15 transcription in mice.

PMID 27050391


The size of the primordial follicle pool determines the reproductive potential of mammalian females, and establishment of the pool is highly dependent on specific genes expression. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the essential genes are regulated coordinately to ensure primordial follicle assembly remain a mystery. Here, we show that the small GTPase Rac1 plays an indispensable role in controlling the formation of primordial follicles in mouse ovary. Employing fetal mouse ovary organ culture system, we demonstrate that disruption of Rac1 retarded the breakdown of germline cell cysts while Rac1 overexpression accelerated the formation of primordial follicles. In addition, in vivo inhibitor injection resulted in the formation of multi-oocyte follicles. Subsequent investigation showed that Rac1 induced nuclear import of STAT3 by physical binding. In turn, nuclear STAT3 directly activated the transcription of essential oocyte-specific genes, including Jagged1, GDF9, BMP15 and Nobox. Further, GDF9 and BMP15 regulated the translation of Notch2 via mTORC1 activation in pregranulosa cells. Overexression or addition of Jagged1, GDF9 and BMP15 not only reversed the effect of Rac1 disruption, but also accelerated primordial follicle formation via Notch2 signaling activation. Collectively, these results indicate that Rac1 plays important roles as a key regulator in follicular assembly.