Prem Nichani, Tal Lazer, Jennifer Power, Peter Szaraz, Andrée Gauthier-Fisher, Shlomit Kenigsberg, Clifford L. Librach
University of Toronto Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 33rd Annual Research Day, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, May 2016
Publication year: 2016

Expression of leukaemia inhibitory factor receptor (LIFRα) in human luteinized granulosa cells is associated with ovarian reserve

Prem Nichani1,2,8, Tal Lazer1, Jennifer Power1, Peter Szaraz1,4, Andrée Gauthier-Fisher1, Shlomit Kenigsberg1, Clifford L. Librach1,3,5,6,7

1CReATe Fertility Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada; 2Department of Health Sciences, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada; 3Institute of Medical Sciences, 4Department of Physiology, and 5Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada; 6Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada; 7Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada; 8Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada

Keywords: granulosa cells (GCs), cumulus cells (CMs), leukaemia inhibitory factor receptor alpha (LIFRα), pluripotent stem cell markers

Impact Statement:  LIFRα is present in human GCs and its expression is increased in patients with high ovarian reserve, while decreased in low ovarian reserve

Objective: GCs consist of subpopulations of differentiated and less differentiated cells which survive and divide in response to leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) in culture. The LIF pathway is one of the important factors involved in growth initiation of human primordial to primary follicles through its receptor, LIFR. The objective of this study was to determine whether GCs from patients with high, normal and low ovarian reserve vary in their expression of the LIFRα.

Methods: This study was approved by the University of Toronto REB and informed consent was obtained from all participants (age: 24 – 42, BMI: 19.5 – 33). Aspirated follicular cells (AFCs) were collected after IVF-related transvaginal oocyte aspiration (LOR: n = 3, NOR: n = 6, HOR: n = 6). GCs were obtained via differential centrifugation and Ficoll gradient was used to eliminate red and white blood cell contamination.  LIFRα (+) cells were detected using flow cytometry.   CD45 was used as a negative control. LIFRα protein and gene expression in GCs, CM cells and follicular fluid (FF) were validated using Western blotting, immunocytochemistry and qPCR.

Results: Preliminary results from flow cytometry comparing HOR, NOR and LOR GCs (pooled, n=3) show that LIFRα (+) CD45 (-) cells were predominantly present in HOR samples comparing to NOR, while LOR cells were mostly   LIFRα (-) CD45 (-). CD45 (+) cells represented ~3% of the cell population. Immunocytochemistry (IHC) in GCs and CMs showed co-expression of LIFRα in FSHR+ve cells. Western blot analysis confirmed IHC results. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) results revealed a 6.5-fold increase in LIFRα expression in HOR as compared to NOR, with low expression values for LOR.

Conclusion: LIFRα was detected in ovarian somatic cells (GCs, CMs). Significantly higher expression was found in GCs from HOR patients, compared to NOR and LOR patients, suggesting a higher proportion of precursor cells. Moreover, low LIFR expression was found in NOR. This results suggest that different proportion of precursor granulosa cells exist in the follicles of HOR and LOR when compared with NOR patients.  We are currently studying the significance of this interesting finding in order to better understand how folliculogenesis is altered in patients with HOR, and whether LIFRα expression could be a surrogate marker for oocyte quality and maturity.

This project was jointly-funded by CReATe Program Inc. and by a D+H Sunnybrook Research Institute Studentship Award. There are no conflicts of interest to disclose.