Activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6), a sensor protein located in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane, is an important factor in the ER stress signaling pathway. ER stress is known to be involved in folliculogenesis, follicular growth, and ovulation; however, the physiological function of ATF6 in mouse granulosa cells remains largely unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the role of ATF6 in mouse granulosa cells with respect to apoptosis, the cell cycle, and steroid hormone production, as well as several key genes related to follicular development, via RNA interference, immunohistochemical staining, real-time quantitative PCR, Western blotting, flow cytometry, terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated deoxy-UTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay, and ELISA. Immunohistochemical staining revealed that ATF6 was extensively distributed in the granulosa cells of various ovarian follicles and oocytes in adult female mice. FSH or LH treatment significantly increased ATF6 protein levels in mouse granulosa cells. In the meantime, a recombinant plasmid was used to deplete ATF6 successfully using short hairpin RNA-mediated interference technology, which was verified at both the mRNA and protein levels. Flow cytometry and TUNEL assay analysis indicated that ATF6 depletion decreased apoptosis and arrested the S phase of the cell cycle in mouse granulosa cells. Consistent with these results, p53, caspase-3, B cell lymphoma 2 (Bcl-2)-associated X protein, CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein homologous protein, cyclin A1, cyclin B1, and cyclin D2 mRNA expression decreased, whereas Bcl-2 and glucose-regulated protein 78 kDa mRNA expression increased. Interestingly, ATF6 knockdown obviously increased progesterone and estradiol production in mouse granulosa cells. Cytochrome P450 1b1 (Cyp1b1) mRNA levels were downregulated, whereas Cyp11a1, steroidogenic acute regulatory, and Cyp19a1 mRNA levels were upregulated, in keeping with the changes in steroid hormones. Furthermore, ATF6 disruption remarkably increased insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 (Igfbp4) expression and decreased hyaluronan synthase 2 (Has2), prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (Ptgs2), and prostaglandin F receptor (Ptgfr) expression in mouse granulosa cells, which are proteins crucial for follicular development. But, after treating with tunicamycin, the levels of Has2, Ptgs2, and Ptgfr increased relatively, whereas Igfbp4 expression decreased. Collectively, these results imply that ATF6, as a key player in ER stress signaling, may regulate apoptosis, the cell cycle, steroid hormone synthesis, and other modulators related to folliculogenesis in mouse granulosa cells, which may indirectly be involved in the development, ovulation, and atresia of ovarian follicles by affecting the physiological function of granulosa cells. The present study extends our understanding and provides new insights into the physiological significance of ATF6, a key signal transducer of ER stress, in ovarian granulosa cells.
- endoplasmic reticulum stress
- follicular development
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society