Researchers discover a gene that regulates and blocks ovulation

A group of Canadian and European researchers have unlocked the mystery of a gene with the potential to both regulate and block ovulation. The new study – a collaboration between the Université de Montréal in Canada and the Institut de génetique et biologie moléculaire et cellulaire of the Université de Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France – is published in the latest issue of the journal Genes & Development.

“Our findings demonstrate that the Lrh1 gene is essential in regulating ovulation,” said Bruce D. Murphy, director the Animal Research Centre at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor of and obstetrics and gynaecology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Montréal. “Until this point, the role of Lrh1 in female fertility was unclear, but we have found the gene regulates multiple mechanisms of ovulation and may affect fertilization.”

To reach their conclusions, the research team developed a new type of genetically modified mouse whose Lrh1 gene was selectively blocked in the ovary. They found that deletion of the Lrh1 gene effectively stopped ovulation. “This discovery means we can envision new contraceptives that selectively stop ovulation,” said Dr. Murphy. “If created, these new contraceptives would be more effective and produce less side-effects than current steroid-based forms of birth control.”

What’s more, the findings could lead to the development of pharmaceuticals that activate the Lrh1 gene, which may prove critical in giving infertile couples hope in producing children. “This is an important development, since 15 percent of couples are infertile,” said Dr. Murphy. “The widespread role of this gene in the ovary indicates that it may be targeted to stimulate ovulation and, eventually, conception.”


Partners in research:
“Lrh1 regulates ovulation and fertility,” by Rajesha Duggavathi, Bruce D. Murphy, , David H. Volle, Chikage Mataki, Maria C. Antal, Nadia Messaddeq, Johan Auwerx and Kristina Schoonjans, was supported by the CIHR in Canada; CNRS, INSERM and the Serono Foundation in Europe.

About Rajesha Duggavathi
Dr. Rajesha Duggavathi is a postdoctoral fellow at the Universite de Montreal who completed most of the work in this study. He was supported by a fellowships from NSERC and the Serono Foundation.

About Bruce D. Murphy
Dr. Bruce D. Murphy is director of the Animal Reproduction Research Centre, one North America’s largest hubs of its kind, which is based at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Saint-Hyacinthe. The Centre specializes in reproductive biology, embryo transplants and notably cloned a world famous Holstein calf named Starbuck II in 2000.

About the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Farm, domestic and wild animal health is a priority for the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Since its 1886 foundation, North America’s only French veterinary medical school has been a leader in the teaching, treatment and research in its field. The Faculty, based in Saint-Hyacinthe, features 120 professors, clinicians and researchers, 420 undergraduate and 200 graduate students, as well as 300 support staff. Thanks to its new University Veterinary Hospital Centre, the Faculty provides both quality education and unique expertise for businesses, government agencies and the general public.

Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
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University of Montreal

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