Early preantral follicles of the domestic cat express gonadotropin and sex steroid signaling potential

S Kehoe, K Jewgenow, PR Johnston, BC Braun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Key biomolecular processes, which regulate primordial ovarian follicle dormancy and early folliculogenesis in mammalian ovaries, are not fully understood. The domestic cat is a useful model to study ovarian folliculogenesis and is the most relevant for developing in vitro growth methods to be implemented in wild felid conservation breeding programs. Previously, RNA-sequencing of primordial (PrF), primary (PF), and secondary follicle (SF) samples from domestic cat implicated ovarian steroidogenesis and steroid reception during follicle development. Here, we aimed to identify which sex steroid biosynthesis and metabolism enzymes, gonadotropin receptors, and sex steroid receptors are present and may be potential regulators. Differential gene expression, functional annotation, and enrichment analyses were employed and protein localization was studied too. Gene transcripts for PGRPGRMC1AR (steroid receptors), CYP11A1CYP17A1HSD17B1 and HSD17B17 (steroidogenic enzymes), and STS (steroid metabolizing enzyme) were significantly differentially expressed (Q values of ≤0.05). Differential gene expression increased in all transcripts during follicle transitions apart from AR which decreased by the secondary stage. Immunohistochemistry localized FSHR and LHCGR to oocytes at each stage. PGRMC1 immunostaining was strongest in granulosa cells, whereas AR was strongest in oocytes throughout each stage. Protein signals for steroidogenic enzymes were only detectable in SFs. Products of these significantly differentially expressed genes may regulate domestic cat preantral folliculogenesis. In vitro growth could be optimized as all early follicles express gonadotropin and steroid receptors meaning hormone interaction and response may be possible. Protein expression analyses of early SFs supported its potential for producing sex steroids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Domestic cat.
  • Early ovarian folliculogenesis
  • Gonadotropin receptors
  • Steroid receptors
  • Steroidogenesis


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