Oocyte developmental competence in super-stimulated cows is dependent in part on the duration of the FSH coasting. FSH coasting refers to super-stimulation with FSH (two days of endogenous FSH following follicle ablation and three days of FSH injections) followed by no FSH for a specific duration. The optimal duration varies among individuals. FSH coasting appears to modulate the transcriptome of different follicular compartments, which cooperate as a single functional unit. However, the integrative effects of FSH coasting on different follicular compartments remain ambiguous. Meta-analysis of three independent transcriptome studies each focused on a single cell type (granulosa, cumulus and oocyte) during FSH coasting allowed the identification of 12 gene clusters with similar time-course expression patterns in all three compartments. Network analysis identified HNF4A (involved in metabolic functions) and ELAVL1 (an RNA-binding protein) as hub genes regulated respectively upwards and downwards in the clusters enriched at the optimal coasting time, and APP (involved in mitochondrial functions) and COPS5 (a member of the COP9 signalosome) as hub genes regulated respectively upwards and downwards in the clusters enriched progressively throughout the coasting period. We confirmed the effects on HNF4A downstream targets (TTR, PPL) and other hub genes (ELAVL1, APP, MYC and PGR) in 30 cows using RT-qPCR. The correlation of hub gene expression levels with FSH coasting indicated that a combination of these genes could predict oocyte competence with 83% sensitivity, suggesting that they are potential biomarkers of follicle differentiation. These findings could be used to optimize FSH coasting on an individual basis.
- Ovarian follicle
- Oocyte competence
- FSH coasting
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