Indexed on: 31 Dec '15Published on: 31 Dec '15Published in: PloS one
The molecular mechanisms associated with follicle maturation and ovulation are not well defined in avian species. In this study, we used RNA-seq to study the gene expression profiles of the chicken follicles from different developmental stages (pre-hierarchical, pre-ovulatory and post-ovulatory). Transcriptomic analysis revealed a total of 1,277 and 2,310 genes were differentially expressed when follicles progressed through the pre-hierarchical to hierarchical and pre-ovulatory to post-ovulatory transitions, respectively. The differentially expressed genes (DEG) were involved in signaling pathways such as adherens junction, apoptosis and steroid biosynthesis. We further investigated the transcriptional regulation of follicular steroidogenesis by examining the follicle-specific methylation profiles of Star (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein), Cyp11a1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily a, polypeptide 1) and Hsd3b (hydroxy-delta-5-steroid dehydrogenase, 3 beta- and steroid delta-isomerase 1), genes encoding the key enzymes for progesterone synthesis. The varied patterns of DNA methylation in proximal promoters of Star and Cyp11a1but not Hsd3b in different follicles could play a major role in controlling gene expression as well as follicular steroidogenic activity. Finally, the promoter-reporter analysis suggests that TGF-β could be involved in the regulation of Hsd3b expression during ovulation. Together, current data not only provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms of follicular physiology in chicken follicles, but also present the first evidence of epigenetic regulation of ovarian steroidogenesis in avian species.