Role of TrkB in neonatal ovary development
Lannagan, Tamsin R. M.
The signalling cascade induced by the binding of neurotrophins (NGF, BDNF, NT3 and NT4) to their high-affinity tyrosine kinase receptors (TrkA, B and C) is well documented to be important for neuronal cell survival, proliferation and differentiation. Evidence has accumulated demonstrating the importance of these signalling pathways in nonneuronal tissues, including the ovary where all neurotrophins and their receptors are expressed. In the mouse, effects on ovulation have been demonstrated but the role of Trk signalling in neonatal ovary development is less clear. Previous work had found that TrkB expression is upregulated at the time of follicle formation in the mouse and transgenic mice null for the TrkB receptor demonstrate significant loss of oocytes neonatally (TrkB knockouts, KO, die shortly after birth). This thesis examines the phenotype of the TrkB KO using morphological, histological and surgical techniques with the aim being to further investigate the role of TrkB signalling in oocyte survival, and to contribute to our understanding of neonatal ovary development. The main questions addressed are: 1) what developmental defects are occurring on a morphological level that result in the phenotype of the TrkB KO; 2) can these defects be quantified; and 3) what are the longterm survival prospects for TrkB KO oocytes. Morphological assessment revealed that TrkB KO ovaries exhibit poorer follicle health than their Controls and this was confirmed by assessment of basement membrane (BM) composition. TrkB KO brain and kidney were also assessed and found to have similarly affected BM. It is well known that cells require contact with the BM to maintain survival, thus it is postulated that TrkB signalling contributes to oocyte survival through regulation of the BM. Due to the postnatal lethality of the mutation, TrkB KO ovaries were transplanted to ascertain long-term oocyte survival. Unexpectedly it was found that TrkB KO oocytes are able to survive and follicles grow as well as they do in the Control transplants. Consequently, the in vivo effect has to be indirect. It is known that oocytes in the neonatal ovary undergo an increased rate of cell death but it is not known how the cell debris is removed. A novel observation of a neonatal ovarian immune response has been made in this thesis and is postulated to be a physiological mechanism for cell debris clearance. In conclusion, this thesis has demonstrated that signalling through TrkB has an effect on regulating BM in the ovary and other organs, but that surprisingly it has an indirect effect on oocyte survival.