Innate immunity and metabolism in the bovine ovarian follicle

Abstract

Postpartum uterine disease in dairy cows is associated with reduced fertility. One of the first and most prevalent bacteria associated with uterine disease is Escherichia coli. The bacterial endotoxin, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), accumulates in the ovarian follicular fluid of animals with uterine disease. The granulosa cells of the ovarian follicle respond to LPS by secreting pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1a, IL-1b and IL-8, and oocyte health is perturbed. Dairy cows also experience metabolic energy stress in the postpartum period, which is associated with an increased risk of developing uterine disease and ovarian dysfunction. This thesis explored the crosstalk between innate immunity and metabolic energy stress in bovine granulosa cells and cumulus-oocyte complex. Firstly, we found that glycolysis, AMP-activated protein kinase and the mechanistic target of rapamycin, regulate the innate immune responses to LPS in granulosa cells isolated from bovine ovarian follicles. Activation of AMP-activated protein kinase decreased the LPS-induced secretion of IL-1a, IL-1b, and IL8, and was associated with shortened duration of ERK1/2 and JNK phosphorylation. Next, we found that decreasing the availability of cholesterol or inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis using short-interfering RNA impaired the LPS-induced secretion of IL-1a and IL-1b by granulosa cells. Furthermore, metabolic energy stress or inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis in the bovine cumulus-oocyte complex modulated the innate immune responses to LPS, and perturbed meiotic progression during in vitro maturation. Finally, we explored an in vivo model of uterine disease in heifers, using RNAseq to investigate alterations to the transcriptome of the reproductive tract. We found that uterine disease altered the transcriptome of the endometrium, oviduct, granulosa cells and oocyte, several months after bacterial infusion; these changes were most evident in the granulosa cells and oocyte of the ovarian follicle. The findings from this thesis imply that there is crosstalk between innate immunity and metabolism in the bovine ovarian follicle

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