The neurotrophins, required for the survival and differentiation of the nervous system, are known to be important for the development of the reproductive tissues. However, the signals initiating the growth of follicles, gamete development, and transport and the development of zygote in the reproductive system of cows remain ambiguous. The purpose of the present study was to identify the transcripts and proteins of Neurotrophin 4 (NT4) and its receptor tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) in bovine reproductive tissues. The transcripts and immunoreactivity of NT4 and TrkB proteins were detected by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and western blot analysis. Using immunohistochemistry, the specific immunoreactivity of NT4 and TrkB were detected in the oocytes of primordial follicles and in the growing primary follicles. The NT4 and TrkB immunoreactivity was predominantly observed in granulosa cells, cumulus granulosa cells, cumulus oocyte complexes, theca cells of mature follicles, as well as in the oviduct epithelial cells, uterine gland cell, and epithelium cells of the uterus during the follicular and luteal phases in cows. Expressions of NT4 and TrkB mRNAs were not significantly different among the ovary, oviduct, and uterus of the follicular phase. For the luteal phase, the expression of NT4 mRNA in the ovary was significantly higher than that in the oviduct and uterus, and the expression of TrkB mRNA in the oviduct was significantly higher than that in the ovary and uterus, as determined by fluorescence quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The expression of NT4 mRNA was significantly higher than that of TrkB mRNA in the ovary and uterus, whereas NT4 mRNA expression was lower than that of TrkB mRNA in the oviduct during the luteal phase. The present study hypothesizes that NT4 participates in the regulation of both gonads and extra-gonadal reproductive tissues in cows.
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