The folate cycle is central to cellular one-carbon metabolism, where folates are carriers of one-carbon units that are critical for synthesis of purines, thymidylate, and S-adenosylmethionine, the universal methyl donor that forms the cellular methyl pool. Although folates are well-known to be important for early embryo and fetal development, their role in oogenesis has not been clearly established. Here, folate transport proteins were detected in developing neonatal ovaries and growing oocytes by immunohistochemistry, Western blot, and immunofluorescence. The folate receptors FOLR1 and FOLR2 as well as reduced folate carrier 1 (RFC1, SLC19A1 protein) each appeared to be present in follicular cells including granulosa cells. In growing oocytes, however, only FOLR2 immunoreactivity appeared abundant. Localization of apparent FOLR2 immunofluorescence near the plasma membrane increased with oocyte growth and peaked in oocytes as they neared full size. We assessed folate transport using the model folate leucovorin (folinic acid). Unexpectedly, there was a transient burst of folate transport activity for a brief period during oocyte growth as they neared full size, while folate transport was otherwise undetectable for the rest of oogenesis and in fully grown germinal vesicle stage oocytes. This folate transport was inhibited by dynasore, an inhibitor of endocytosis, but insensitive to the anion transport inhibitor stilbene 4-acetamido-40-isothiocyanato-stilbene-2,20-disulfonic acid, consistent with folate receptor-mediated transport but not with RFC1-mediated transport. Thus, near the end of their growth, growing oocytes may take up folates that could support the final stage of oogenesis or be stored to provide the endogenous folates needed in early embryogenesis.
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Vol. 94 • No. 6