In mammals, primordial follicles assembled in fetuses or during infancy constitute the oocyte resources for life. Exposure to 17beta-estradiol and phytogenic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals during pregnancy and/or the perinatal period leads to the failure of normal follicle formation. However, the mechanisms underlying estrogen-mediated abnormal follicle formation and physiological follicle formation in the presence of endogenous natural estrogen are not well understood. Here, we reveal that estrogen receptor 1, activated by estrogen, binds to the 5 region of the anti-Mullerian hormone (Amh) gene and upregulates its transcription before follicle formation in cultured mouse fetal ovaries. Ectopic expression of AMH protein was observed in pregranulosa cells of these explants. Furthermore, the addition of AMH to the culture medium inhibited normal follicle formation. Conversely, alphafetoprotein (AFP) produced in the fetal liver reportedly blocks estrogen action, although its role in follicle formation is unclear. We further demonstrated that the addition of AFP to the medium inhibited ectopic AMH expression via estrogen, leading to successful follicle formation in vitro. Collectively, our in vitro experiments suggest that upon estrogen exposure, the integrity of follicle assembly in vivo is ensured by AFP.
ASJC Scopus subject areas