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Ovarian cryopreservation is one option for fertility preservation in patients with cancer. The danger of reseeding malignancies could be eliminated by in vitro maturation of primordial follicles from the frozen-thawed tissue. However, the development of this system is hindered by uncertainties regarding factors that activate primordial follicles. Neuronal growth factors such as vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) play important roles in early mammalian folliculogenesis. There are no data on the expression of VIP and its vasoactive intestinal peptide pituitary adenylate cyclase 1 and 2 receptors (VPAC1-R and VPAC2-R) in human preantral follicles. Tissue samples from 14 human fetal ovaries and 40 ovaries from girls/women were prepared to test for the expression of VIP, VPAC1-R, and VPAC2-R on the protein (immunohistochemisty) and mRNA (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) levels. Immunohistochemistry staining was mostly weak, especially in fetal samples. The VIP protein was identified in oocytes and granulosa cells (GCs) in the fetal samples from 22 gestational weeks (GW) onwards. In girls/women, VIP follicular staining (oocytes and GCs) was identified in 45% of samples. VPAC1-R protein was identified in follicles in all fetal samples from 22GW onwards and in 63% of the samples from girls/women (GC staining only in 40%). VPAC2-R protein was identified in follicles in 33% of fetal samples and 47% of the samples from girls/women. The mRNA transcripts for VIP, VPAC1-R, and VPAC2-R were identified in ovarian extracts from fetuses and women. VIP and its two receptors are expressed in human ovarian preantral follicles. However, their weak staining suggests they have limited roles in early follicular growth. To elucidate if VIP activates human primordial follicles, it should be added to the culture medium.


Rinat Gabbay-Benziv, Asangla Ao, Benjamin Fisch, Li Zhang, Galia Oron, Gania Kessler-Icekson, Avi Ben-Haroush, Haim Krissi, Ronit Abir. Vasoactive intestinal peptide and its receptors in human ovarian cortical follicles. PloS one. 2012;7(5):e37015

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PMID: 22623971

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