FOXO1/3 and PTEN depletion in granulosa cells promotes ovarian granulosa cell tumor development

Zhilin Liu, Yi A. Ren, Stephanie A. Pangas, Jaye Adams, Wei Zhou, Diego H. Castrillon, Dagmar Wilhelm, Joanne S. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The forkhead box (FOX), FOXO1 and FOXO3, transcription factors regulate multiple functions in mammalian cells. Selective inactivation of the Foxo1 and Foxo3 genes in murine ovarian granulose cells severely impairs follicular development and apoptosis causing infertility, and as shown here, granulosa cell tumor (GCT) formation. Coordinate depletion of the tumor suppressor Pten gene in the Foxo1/3 strain enhanced the penetrance and onset of GCT formation. Immunostaining and Western blot analyses confirmed FOXO1 and phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) depletion, maintenance of globin transcription factor (GATA) 4 and nuclear localization of FOXL2 and phosphorylated small mothers against decapentaplegic (SMAD) 2/3 in the tumor cells, recapitulating results we observed in human adult GCTs. Microarray and quantitative PCR analyses of mouse GCTs further confirmed expression of specific genes (Foxl2, Gata4, and Wnt4) controlling granulose cell fate specification and proliferation, whereas others (Emx2, Nr0b1, Rspo1, and Wt1) were suppressed. Key genes (Amh, Bmp2, and Fshr) controlling follicle growth, apoptosis, and differentiation were also suppressed. Inhbb and Grem1 were selectively elevated, whereas reduction of Inha provided additional evidence that activin signaling and small mothers against decapentaplegic (SMAD) 2/3 phosphorylation impact GCT formation. Unexpectedly, markers of Sertoli/epithelial cells (SRY [sex determining region Y]-box 9/keratin 8) and alternatively activated macrophages (chitinase 3-like 3) were elevated in discrete subpopulations within the mouse GCTs, indicating that Foxo1/3/Pten depletion not only leads to GCTs but also to altered granulosa cell fate decisions and immune responses. Thus, analyses of the Foxo1/3/Pten mouse GCTs and human adult GCTs provide strong evidence that impaired functions of the FOXO1/3/PTEN pathways lead to dramatic changes in the molecular program within granulosa cells, chronic activin signaling in the presence of FOXL2 and GATA4, and tumor formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1024
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology


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