The ovarian gap junction proteins alpha 4 (GJA4 or connexin 37; CX37), alpha 1 (GJA1 or connexin 43; CX43) and gamma 1 (GJC1 or connexin 45; CX45) are involved in cell communication and folliculogenesis. 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA) alters Cx37 and Cx43 expression in cultured neonatal rat ovaries. Additionally, obesity has an additive effect on DMBA-induced ovarian cell death and follicle depletion, thus, we investigated in vivo impacts of obesity and DMBA on CX protein levels. Ovaries were collected from lean and obese mice aged 6, 12, 18, or 24 wks. A subset of 18 wk old mice (lean and obese) were dosed with sesame oil or DMBA (1mg/kg; ip) for 14 days and ovaries collected 3 days thereafter. Cx43 and Cx45 mRNA and protein levels decreased (P < 0.05) after 18 wks while Cx37 mRNA and protein levels decreased (P < 0.05) after 24 wks in obese ovaries. Cx37 mRNA and antral follicle protein staining intensity were reduced (P < 0.05) by obesity while total CX37 protein was reduced (P < 0.05) in DMBA exposed obese ovaries. Cx43 mRNA and total protein levels were decreased (P < 0.05) by DMBA in both lean and obese ovaries while basal protein staining intensity was reduced (P < 0.05) in obese controls. Cx45 mRNA, total protein and protein staining intensity level were decreased (P < 0.05) by obesity. These data support that obesity temporally alters gap junction protein expression and that DMBA-induced ovotoxicity may involve reduced gap junction protein function.
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