Equol is a non-steroidal estrogen metabolite produced by microbial conversion of daidzein, a major soy isoflavone, in the gut of some humans and many animal species. Isoflavones and their metabolites can affect endogenous estradiol production, action, and metabolism, potentially influencing ovarian follicle function. However, no studies have examined the effects of equol on intact ovarian antral follicles, which are responsible for sex steroid synthesis and further development into ovulatory follicles. Thus, the present study tested the hypothesis that equol inhibits antral follicle growth, increases follicle atresia, and inhibits steroidogenesis in the adult mouse ovary. To test this hypothesis, antral follicles isolated from adult CD-1 mice were cultured with vehicle control (dimethyl sulfoxide; DMSO) or equol (600 nM, 6 μM, 36 μM, and 100 μM) for 48 and 96 h. Every 24 h, follicle diameters were measured to monitor growth. At 48 and 96 h, the culture medium was subjected to measurement of hormone levels, and the cultured follicles were subjected to gene expression analysis. Additionally, follicles were histologically evaluated for signs of atresia after 96 h of culture. The results indicate that equol (100 μM) inhibited follicle growth, altered the mRNA levels of bcl2-associated X protein and B cell leukemia/lymphoma 2, and induced follicle atresia. Further, equol decreased the levels of estradiol, testosterone, androstenedione, and progesterone, and it decreased mRNA levels of cholesterol side-chain cleavage, steroid 17-α-hydroxalase, and aromatase. Collectively, these data indicate that equol inhibits growth, increases atresia, and inhibits steroidogenesis of cultured mouse antral follicles.
- Antral follicle
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