Primordial follicle (PF) pool determines the availability of follicles for ovulation in all mammals. Premature depletion of the PF reserve leads to subfertility or infertility. Bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) promotes PF formation by facilitating oocyte and granulosa cell development. Estradiol-17β (E2) upregulates PF formation in developing hamster ovaries. However, if BMP2 mediates E2 effect is not known. We hypothesize that E2 facilitates the effect of BMP2 on somatic to granulosa cell transition. BMP2 and E2 together significantly upregulated the percentage of PFs in hamster fetal ovaries in vitro compared with either of the treatments alone. E2 also promoted BMP2 expression in vivo. Inhibition of BMP2 receptors suppressed E2-stimulation of PF formation while knockdown of BMP2 in vitro significantly suppressed the E2 effect. In contrast, estrogen receptor blocker did not affect BMP2 action. Inhibition of the activity of E2 or BMP2 receptors, either alone or combined during the last two days of the culture (C6-C8) resulted in a significant decrease in PF formation by C8, suggesting that both BMP2 and E2 action is essential for somatic cell differentiation for PF formation. Together, the results suggest that E2 activates BMP2-BMPR system leading to the formation of primordial follicles.
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