Fibroinflammatory signatures increase with age in the human ovary and follicular fluid

Jordan H. Machlin, Seth J. Barishansky, John Kelsh, Megan J. Larmore, Brian W. Johnson, Michele T. Pritchard, Mary Ellen Pavone, Francesca E. Duncan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The female reproductive system ages before any other organ system in the body. This phenomenon can have tangible clinical implications leading to infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and systemic deterioration due to estrogen loss. “Fibroinflammation” is a hallmark of aging tissues; there is an increase in inflammatory cytokines and fibrotic tissue in the aging ovarian stroma. We systematically evaluated immunomodulatory factors in human follicular fluid, which, like the stroma, is a critical ovarian microenvironment directly influencing the oocyte. Using a cytokine an-tibody array, we identified a unique fibroinflammatory cytokine signature in follicular fluid across an aging series of women (27.7–44.8 years). This signature (IL‐3, IL‐7, IL‐15, TGFβ1, TGFβ3 and MIP‐1) increased with chronologic age, was inversely correlated to anti‐Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels, and was independent of body mass index (BMI). We focused on one specific protein, TGFβ3, for further validation. By investigating this cytokine in human cumulus cells and ovarian tissue, we found that the age‐dependent increase in TGFβ3 expression was unique to the ovarian stroma but not other ovarian sub‐compartments. This study broadens our understanding of inflammaging in the female reproductive system and provides a defined fibroinflammatory aging signature in fol-licular fluid and molecular targets in the ovary with potential clinical utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4902
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • Cytokine
  • Fibrosis
  • Human
  • Inflammation
  • Ovary
  • TGFβ3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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