Prohibitin is a ubiquitous and highly conserved protein implicated as an important regulator in cell survival. Prohibitin content is inversely associated with cell proliferation, but it increases during granulosa cell differentiation as well as in earlier events of apoptosis in a temperature-sensitive granulosa cell line. In the present study, we have characterized the spatial expression patterns for prohibitin using established in vivo models for the induction of follicular development and atresia in the mammalian ovary. Comparative Western blot analyses of granulosa cell lysates from control ovaries and from ovaries primed with eCG or treated with eCG plus anti-eCG (gonadotropin withdrawal) were conducted. Prohibitin was immunolocalized in rat ovarian sections probed with antibodies against either proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) or cholesterol side-chain cleavage cytochrome P450 (P450scc) or in terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeled sections. Additionally, porcine oocytes, zygotes, and blastocyts were also immunolocalized with prohibitin antibody. Immunolocalization revealed the presence of prohibitin in granulosa cells, theca-interstitial cells, and the oocyte. The results indicate that prohibitin protein expression in the gonadotropin-treated cells was upregulated. Immunoreactivity of prohibitin was inversely related to PCNA expression during follicular maturation and colocalized with P450scc. Prohibitin appeared to be translocated from the cytoplasm to the nucleus in atretic follicles, germinal vesicle-stage oocytes, zygotes, and blastocysts. These results suggest that prohibitin has several functional regulatory roles in granulosa and theca-interstitial cells and in the ovum during follicular maturation and atresia. It is likely that prohibitin may play an important role in determining the fate of these cells and eventual follicular destiny.
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