Low molecular weight hyaluronan induces an inflammatory response in ovarian stromal cells and impairs gamete development in vitro

Jennifer E. Rowley, Farners Amargant, Luhan T. Zhou, Anna Galligos, Leah E. Simon, Michele T. Pritchard, Francesca E. Duncan

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31 Scopus citations


The ovarian stroma, the microenvironment in which female gametes grow and mature, becomes inflamed and fibrotic with age. Hyaluronan is a major component of the ovarian extracellular matrix (ECM), and in other aging tissues, accumulation of low molecular weight (LMW) hyaluronan fragments can drive inflammation. Thus, we hypothesized that LMW hyaluronan fragments contribute to female reproductive aging by stimulating an inflammatory response in the ovarian stroma and impairing gamete quality. To test this hypothesis, isolated mouse ovarian stromal cells or secondary stage ovarian follicles were treated with physiologically relevant (10 or 100 μg/mL) concentrations of 200 kDa LMW hyaluronan. In ovarian stromal cells, acute LMW hyaluronan exposure, at both doses, resulted in the secretion of a predominantly type 2 (Th2) inflammatory cytokine profile as revealed by a cytokine antibody array of conditioned media. Additional qPCR analyses of ovarian stromal cells demonstrated a notable upregulation of the eotaxin receptor Ccr3 and activation of genes involved in eosinophil recruitment through the IL5-CCR3 signaling pathway. These findings were consistent with an age-dependent increase in ovarian stromal expression of Ccl11, a major CCR3 ligand. When ovarian follicles were cultured in 10 or 100 μg/mL LMW hyaluronan for 12 days, gametes with compromised morphology and impaired meiotic competence were produced. In the 100 μg/mL condition, LMW hyaluronan induced premature meiotic resumption, ultimately leading to in vitro aging of the resulting eggs. Further, follicles cultured in this LMW hyaluronan concentration produced significantly less estradiol, suggesting compromised granulosa cell function. Taken together, these data demonstrate that bioactive LMW hyaluronan fragments may contribute to reproductive aging by driving an inflammatory stromal milieu, potentially through eosinophils, and by directly compromising gamete quality through impaired granulosa cell function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1036
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Hyaluronan fragments
  • Inflammation
  • Ovarian biology
  • Reproductive aging
  • Stroma


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