The Notch pathway plays diverse and complex roles in cell signaling during development. In the mammalian ovary, Notch is important for the initial formation and growth of follicles, and for regulating the proliferation and differentiation of follicular granulosa cells during the periovulatory period. This study seeks to determine the contribution of female germ cells toward the initial activation and subsequent maintenance of Notch signaling within somatic granulosa cells of the ovary. To address this issue, transgenic Notch reporter (TNR) mice were crossed with Sohlh1-mCherry (S1CF) transgenic mice to visualize Notch-active cells (EGFP) and germ cells (mCherry) simultaneously in the neonatal ovary. To test the involvement of oocytes in activation of Notch signaling in ovarian somatic cells, we ablated germ cells using busulfan, a chemotherapeutic alkylating agent, or investigated KitWv/Wv (viable dominant white-spotting) mice that lack most germ cells. The data reveal that Notch pathway activation in granulosa cells is significantly suppressed when germ cells are reduced. We further demonstrate that disruption of the gene for the Notch ligand Jag1 in oocytes similarly impacts Notch activation and that recombinant JAG1 enhances Notch target gene expression in granulosa cells. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that germ cells provide a ligand, such as Jag1, that is necessary for activation of Notch signaling in the developing ovary.
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