Quercetin directly inhibits basal ovarian cell functions and their response to the stimulatory action of FSH
Plants, fruits, and vegetables containing the bioflavonoid quercetin are widely used in food, beverages, and medicines; however, the effects of quercetin on reproductive processes and the possible mechanisms of quercetin action require extensive investigation. The aim of our study was to examine the direct effects of quercetin on basic ovarian cell functions and their response to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), known hormonal stimulators of reproduction. We analyzed the effects of quercetin alone (0, 1, 10, and 100 ng/ml) on cultured porcine ovarian granulosa cells or isolated ovarian follicles; or of quercetin (10 ng/ml) in combination with FSH (0, 0.01, 0.1, or 1 IU/ml) or IGF-I (0, 1, 10, or 100 ng/ml) on cultured porcine granulosa cells. The expression of proliferative (PCNA, cyclin B1) and apoptotic (BAX) markers, as well as markers for release of progesterone (P4), testosterone (T), and leptin (L), were measured by quantitative immunocytochemistry, Western immunoblotting, RT-qPCR, and EIA/RIA. Addition of quercetin reduced the accumulation of PCNA and cyclin B1, as well as their transcript levels, promoted the accumulation of BAX, decreased the release of P4 and L, and increased the release of T in cultured granulosa cells. In ovarian follicles, quercetin reduced the levels of both P4 and T. Exposure to FSH stimulated PCNA and decreased BAX accumulation, and increased the release of P4, T, and L. Quercetin inhibited and even reversed the effects of FSH. Like FSH, IGF-I also promoted granulosa cell proliferation and suppressed apoptosis. Quercetin did not modify IGF-I effects. These data suggest that the plant molecule quercetin can directly down-regulate basal ovarian cell functions (proliferation, apoptosis, and release of ovarian steroid and peptide hormones) and their response to the stimulatory activity of the upstream hormonal stimulator FSH.
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