Localization of transferrin and its receptor in ovarian follicular cells: morphologic studies in relation to follicular development.


Granulosa cells perform an essential role in ovarian follicle and ovum development. Proliferating cells have an absolute requirement for iron, which is delivered by transferrin with subsequent intracellular transport via the transferrin receptor. Because iron and transferrin concentration increase in follicular fluid with advancing follicular maturation, the authors studied the distribution of transferrin and its receptor in rat and human granulosa cells with light and electron microscopic immunohistochemistry. Intense cytoplasmic staining was found in granulosa cells, with immunostaining enhancement occurring with advanced follicle maturation, including the periovulatory period. Immunoelectron microscopy showed transferrin throughout the cytoplasm, often in proximity to polyribosomes and vesicular structures. When transferrin was absent in the culture medium used to maintain granulosa cells, diminished transferrin immunostaining was seen. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that follicular maturation is closely related to high levels of cellular transferrin and transferrin receptor. Acquisition of transferrin occurs primarily by either ultrafiltration or facilitated diffusion, whereas de novo local synthesis does not have a major role.