Ovulation as a Tissue Remodelling Process

Proteolysis and Cumulus Expansion
  • Alex Tsafriri
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 377)


Ovulation, recurring every midcycle of the mammalian female and triggered by a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH) released from the pituitary, is an essential prerequisite for fertilization and subsequent embryonic development. Here we shall describe two of the biological components of the ovulatory response, cumulus expansion (frequently denoted as cumulus maturation) and the rupture of follicular wall, both crucial for the release of a fertilizable ovum. The role of a proteolytic cascade and its regulation by eicosanoids will be emphasized in relation to follicle rupture. The new data implicating cumulus maturation as an essential step for the release of the ovum and the apparent mediatory role of interleukin-1 in this process will be presented.

LH/hCG stimulates, in the preovulatory follicles, a cascade of proteolytic enzymes, including plasminogen activator (PA), plasmin and matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP-1). These enzymes bring about the degradation of perifollicular matrix and, most notably, the decomposition of the meshwork of collagen fibers which provides the strength to follicular wall. Furthermore, pharmacological blockage of any of these enzymes resulted in inhibition of follicle rupture.

LH/hCG stimulates, in addition, an increase in ovarian production of eicosanoids. These include prostaglandins, obtained from arachidonic acid via the cyclooxygenase pathway and leukotrienes, the products of lipoxygenase. Previous studies from our and other laboratories have demonstrated the ability of inhibitors of cyclooxygenase and of lipoxygenases to suppress ovulation in several mammalian species. MK-886, which inhibits the translocation of 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) from the cytosol and its binding to the membranal 5-LO activating enzyme, suppressed dose-dependently follicular rupture from the treated ovary. Zymographic analysis of ovarian extracts from PMSG/hCG-stimulated rats revealed a band of collagenolytic activity at 52kD, corresponding to human MMP-1 and at 72kD, corresponding to human MMP-2. Both activities were markedly stimulated by administration of hCG and were significantly inhibited by indomethacin, NDGA or MK-886. Thus, eicosanoids seem to mediate LH stimulation of follicular collagenase.

Interleukin-1 (IL-1) has been recently implicated in ovulation. The ability of an IL-1 receptor antagonist (ra) to block ovulation in vivo and in vitro has been demonstrated recently. Morphological examination of the ovulatory follicles failing to ovulate suggests that this effect is exerted by inhibiting cumulus oophorus expansion and detachment from mural granulosa cells. In vitro, IL-1ra attenuated the action of hCG and FSH on cumulus expansion and follicular hyaluronic acid synthesis. Thus, IL-1 seems to mediate and/or facilitate gonadotropin action on cumulus expansion, and hence on ovulation.


Plasminogen Activator Granulosa Cell Follicular Fluid Preovulatory Follicle Collagenolytic Activity 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex Tsafriri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Hormone Research, The Bernhard Zondek Hormone Research LaboratoryThe Weizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael

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