The development of ovarian follicles constitutes the foundation of female reproduction. The proliferation of granulosa cells (GCs) is a basic process required to ensure normal follicular development. However, the mechanisms involved in controlling GC cell cycle are not fully understood. Here, by performing gene expression profiling in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa), we showed that cell cycle arrest at G0/G1 phase is highly correlated with pathways associated with hypoxic stress and FOXO signalling. Specifically, the elevated proportion of GCs at the arrested G0/G1 phase was accompanied by increased nuclear translocation of FOXO1 under conditions of hypoxia both in vivo and in vitro. Furthermore, phosphorylation of 14-3-3 by the JNK kinase is required for hypoxia-mediated FOXO1 activation and the resultant G0/G1 arrest. Notably, a FOXO1 mutant without DNA-binding activity failed to induce G0/G1 arrest of GCs during hypoxia. Importantly, we identified a new target gene of FOXO1, namely TP53INP1, which contributes to suppression of the G1-S cell cycle transition in response to hypoxia. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the inhibitory effect of the FOXO1-TP53INP1 axis on the GC cell cycle is mediated through a p53-CDKN1A-dependent mechanism. These findings could provide avenues for the clinical treatment of human infertility caused by impaired follicular development.

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