Proliferation of ovarian theca-interstitial cells is modulated by antioxidants and oxidative stress

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Maintenance of ovarian homeostasis requires precise regulation of proliferation of thecal- interstitial (T-I) cells. Recent evidence indicates that oxidative stress and antioxidants modulate proliferation of various tissues under both physiological and pathological conditions. This study evaluated the effects of oxidative stress and antioxidants on T-I proliferation.


Rat T-I cells were cultured in serum-free medium and proliferation was assessed by determination of DNA synthesis using the thymidine incorporation assay, by 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and by direct counting of steroidogenically active cells and steroidogenically inactive cells.


Antioxidants and reactive oxygen scavengers induced a dose-dependent decrease of T-I proliferation. Vitamin E succinate was inhibitory at 10–100 µmol/l, ebselen was inhibitory at 0.3–30 µmol/l, and superoxide dismutase was inhibitory at 300–1000 IU/ml. In contrast, oxidative stress resulted in a biphasic effect. Modest oxidative stress induced by 1 mmol/l hypoxanthine and xanthine oxidase (3–30 µU/ml) stimulated proliferation of T-I cells, while greater oxidative stress induced by xanthine oxidase (1 mU/ml) profoundly inhibited proliferation. Direct cell counting demonstrated comparable effects on steroidogenically active and inactive cells.


Reactive oxygen species may play a role in the regulation of growth of ovarian mesenchyme. Under pathological conditions, such as those encountered in polycystic ovary syndrome, excessive oxidative stress and depletion of antioxidants may contribute to ovarian mesenchymal hyperplasia.

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