Transcription factor GATA4 is expressed in granulosa cells and, to a lesser extent, in other ovarian cell types. Studies of mutant mice have shown that interactions between GATA4 and its cofactor, ZFPM2 (also termed FOG2), are required for proper development of the fetal ovary. The role of GATA4 in postnatal ovarian function, however, has remained unclear, in part because of prenatal lethality of homozygous mutations in the Gata4 gene in mice. To circumvent this limitation, we studied ovarian function in two genetically engineered mouse lines: C57BL/6 (B6) female mice heterozygous for a Gata4-null allele, and 129;B6 female mice in which Gata4 is deleted specifically in proliferating granulosa cells using the Cre-loxP recombination system and Amhr2-cre. Female B6 Gata4+/− mice had delayed puberty but normal estrous cycle lengths and litter size. Compared to wild-type mice, the ovaries of gonadotropin-stimulated B6 Gata4+/− mice were significantly smaller, released fewer oocytes, produced less estrogen, and expressed less mRNA for the putative GATA4 target genes Star, Cyp11a1, and Cyp19. Gata4 conditional knockout (cKO) mice had a more severe phenotype, including impaired fertility and cystic ovarian changes. Like Gata4+/− mice, the ovaries of gonadotropin-stimulated cKO mice released fewer oocytes and expressed less Cyp19 than those of control mice. Our findings, coupled with those of other investigators, support the premise that GATA4 is a key transcriptional regulator of ovarian somatic cell function in both fetal and adult mice
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