Expression pattern of endothelin system components and localization of smooth muscle cells in the human pre-ovulatory follicle

Dong Hee Choi, Eun Kyung Kim, Kyeoung Hwa Kim, Kyung Ah Lee, Dong Wook Kang, Hey Young Kim, Phillip Bridges, Chemyong Ko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: Whether ovarian follicular rupture involves contractile activity or not has been debated for decades. Recently, study in the rodents has indicated that an endogenously produced potent vasoconstrictive peptide, endothelin-2 (EDN2), may induce follicular constriction immediately prior to ovulation. This study was aimed to systematically characterize the human ovarian endothelin system and localize smooth muscle cells to assess the possible involvement of contractile activity in human ovulation.MethodsThis is a prospective experimental study. Study subjects were 20 women aged 2038 years who underwent IVF owing to tubal or male factors. Expression patterns of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) for EDN1, EDN2, EDN3, endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (ECE1 and ECE2), endothelin receptor A (ETA) and ETB in the granulosa cells (GCs) and cumulus cells and endothelin peptide concentration in the pre-ovulatory follicles were measured at 36 h after hCG injection. In addition, localization of ovarian smooth muscle cells and endothelin receptor expression were determined in normal (non-IVF patient) ovaries.ResultsPre-ovulatory follicles express mRNA for EDN1 and EDN2, ECE1, ECE2, ETA and ETB, but not EDN3, contain highly concentrated endothelin peptides (105.9 pg/ml) and are surrounded by theca externa that are made mostly of multicell layer non-vascular smooth muscle cells. ETA expression is localized in the smooth muscle cells of theca externa, theca interna and GC, whereas ETB expression is confined to theca interna. Conclusions Pre-ovulatory follicles contain highly concentrated endothelins and are surrounded by non-vascular smooth muscle cells that express endothelin receptor, suggesting involvement of endothelin-induced contractile action in ovulation in the human ovary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1171-1180
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the NIH (R01HD052694 to C.K.) and the grant of the Korea Healthcare technology R&D Project, Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, Republic of Korea (A084923 to D-H.C. and K-A.L.).


  • contraction
  • endothelin
  • ovary
  • ovulation
  • smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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