Lhx9 is required for urogenital ridge development and ovarian function
While there has been extensive research into the differentiation of sexually dimorphic gonads, there is much to learn about the bi-potential structure they arise from, the urogenital ridge (UGR). This gap in knowledge is imperative in the contexts of disorders of sex development and infertility, of which many cases have unknown aetiology. The transcription factor LIM Homeobox 9 (Lhx9) has been shown to have a functional role in the development of the UGR. Lhx9 -/- mice display gonadal agenesis and complete male to female sex reversal. Little is known about the regulation of Lhx9 gene expression in the UGR or its role in the greater genetic networks of reproductive development and beyond. We hypothesised that Lhx9 expression is regulated by Notch signalling in the UGR. To investigate the regulation of Lhx9 in the UGR in situ hybridisation was used to analyse the expression patterns of Lhx9, Notch (receptor), and Hes1 (Notch downstream effector) in the embryonic mouse gonad. Overlapping expression patterns in the UGR suggested a coregulatory interaction between the genes. This was further demonstrated by explant culture of embryonic gonads in the presence of the Notch pathway inhibitor DAPT. RT-qPCR revealed reduced Lhx9 expression in RNA extracted from the treated gonads, providing a strong case for a regulatory relationship between Notch and Lhx9. Due to declines in Lhx9 heterozygote (Lhx9+/-) fertility and embryo viability we hypothesised that a reduction in Lhx9 expression would result in impaired fertility in the mouse model. RNA extracted from the gonads of Lhx9+/- embryos was used for RT-qPCR to determine the relative expression of markers of key cell types in the developing gonad. Significant changes in the expression of markers of both male and female somatic and germ cells were found. This raised the question of whether Lhx9 was expressed in the adult ovary, and if so were the observed fertility declines due to reduced Lhx9 expression. In situ hybridisation revealed the novel discovery of Lhx9 expression localised to the follicles of the ovary, this was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. RT-qPCR of heterozygote ovaries revealed trends of reduced expression of critical ovarian fertility genes, a finding reflected in abnormalities seen in histological analysis. These results provide significant evidence for the role of Lhx9 in UGR development and the adult ovary, and offer direction for further investigation into its potential role in the underlying genetic networks DSD and infertility.
Advisor: Wilson, Megan
Degree Name: Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences with Honours
Degree Discipline: Anatomy
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Lhx9; Urogenital Ridge; Development; Ovary; Reproduction
Research Type: Thesis