In recent years, several factors required for follicular assembly and/or early growth of newly formed primordial follicles have been characterized, but additional factors likely remain to be identified. We have used cDNA arrays to compare gene expression in the neonatal mouse ovary at 48 h (when primordial follicles are being assembled) and at 96 h (when early follicular growth is taking place) after birth to that of ovaries collected <24 h after birth (when follicles have not yet been formed). Segregating genes according to their pattern of expression revealed the presence of one cluster of 24 genes for which expression consistently increased at 48 and 96 h. The top increaser in this cluster encodes a ∼1.5-kb mRNA containing an open reading frame of 1401 bp that encodes a protein of 466 amino acids. The predicted 52.3-kDa protein is a member of the F-box-only (FBXO) protein family, termed FBXW15 or FBXO12J. It has a cytoplasmic localization that includes the endoplasmic reticulum. Expression of Fbxw15/Fbxp12J mRNA is oocyte-specific; the mRNA is first detected on Gestational Day 18, decreasing thereafter to minimal levels on the day of birth. The prevalence of Fbxw15/Fbxp12J mRNA increases again at 48 and 96 h after birth, coinciding with the time of follicular assembly and the initiation of early follicular growth, respectively. The specific expression of Fbxw15/Fbxp12J in oocytes and its developmental pattern of expression suggest a role for this gene in the regulation of oocyte physiology.
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Vol. 78 • No. 4