Throughout oogenesis, cell-cell communication via gap junctions (GJs) between oocytes and surrounding follicle cells (theca and granulosa cells), and/or amongst follicle cells is required for successful follicular development. To gain a fundamental understanding of ovarian GJs in teleosts, gene transcripts encoding GJ proteins, connexins ( cx), were identified in the coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, ovary. The spatiotemporal expression of four ovarian cx transcripts was assessed, as well as their potential regulation by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1).
Salmonid ovarian transcriptomes were mined for cx genes. Four gene transcripts designated cx30.9, cx34.3, cx43.2, and cx44.9 were identified. Changes in gene expression across major stages of oogenesis were determined with real-time, quantitative RT-PCR (qPCR) and cx transcripts were localized to specific ovary cell-types by in situ hybridization. Further, salmon ovarian follicles were cultured with various concentrations of FSH, LH and IGF1 and effects of each hormone on cx gene expression were determined by qPCR.
Transcripts for cx30.9 and cx44.9 were highly expressed at the perinucleolus (PN)-stage and decreased thereafter. In contrast, transcripts for cx34.3 and cx43.2 were low at the PN-stage and increased during later stages of oogenesis, peaking at the mid vitellogenic (VIT)-stage and maturing (MAT)-stage, respectively. In situ hybridization revealed that transcripts for cx34.3 were only detected in granulosa cells, but other cx transcripts were detected in both oocytes and follicle cells. Transcripts for cx30.9 and cx44.9 were down-regulated by FSH and IGF1 at the lipid droplet (LD)-stage, whereas transcripts for cx34.3 were up-regulated by FSH and IGF1 at the LD-stage, and LH and IGF1 at the late VIT-stage. Transcripts for cx43.2 were down-regulated by IGF1 at the late VIT-stage and showed no response to gonadotropins.
Our findings demonstrate the presence and hormonal regulation of four different cx transcripts in the salmon ovary. Differences in the spatiotemporal expression profile and hormonal regulation of these cx transcripts likely relate to their different roles during ovarian follicle differentiation and development.