Oocyte-specific gene mutations cause premature ovarian failure

May 22, 2008

Mutations in a gene called FIGLA cause premature ovarian failure in at least a percentage of women who suffer from the disorder, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Shandong University in China in a report that appears online today in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“We hope to use the information from this study and others that identify genes associated with this problem to find biomarkers in blood that can help us determine a woman’s risk of early infertility,” said Dr. Aleksandar Rajkovic, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BCM and senior author of the paper. Premature ovarian failure, which means that the ovaries lose function before age 40, not only causes infertility but also bone and heart problems, he said.

“It affects 1 percent of women,” he said. “While most people associate it with infertility, women with premature ovarian failure face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and premature death. Ovarian reserves are important for women’s health.”

In looking for genes that cause the disorder, Rajkovic and his colleagues here and in China concentrated on those that are most likely to function in the ovary. A gene mutation does not totally halt gene activity, but Rajkovic believes it can accelerate the loss of eggs (or germ cells). When all the eggs are lost, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, leading to menopause symptoms.

In this study, Rajkovic and his collaborators screened 100 Chinese women with premature ovarian failure for mutations in FIGLA and found three different kinds of mutations in the FIGLA genes of four.

FIGLA is one of four transcription factors found to control the differentiation of egg cells early in development. Transcription factors govern the activity of genes, turning them off and on and modulating the extent to which they are active.

The other genes involved include NOBOX, GDF9 and BMP 15, said Rajkovic. Mutations in these can lead to premature ovarian failure as well, he said.

“We hope to define majority of the genes that are part of the cellular pathways involved in ovarian failure,” said Rajkovic. “Ideally in the future we will offer a test to women to look at all the genes involved in premature ovarian failure.”

He anticipates that a gene chip would be helpful in such diagnosis, which can help in counseling women or their children about the risk of early ovarian failure.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine

Explore further: Clues to genetics of congenital heart defects emerge from Down syndrome study

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A guardian gene for female sex

Jan 31, 2014

Researchers at INRA, France, have just uncovered one of the major genes responsible for female differentiation: FOXL2. During normal development, the formation of testes or ovaries in a foetus depends on ...

Predicting IVF success with genetic testing

Jan 12, 2011

A researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has helped to develop the first genetic blood test for predicting the chances that in vitro fertilization (IVF) will lead to a successful pregnancy. ...

For Stem Cells, Practice Makes Perfect

Apr 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Multipotent stem cells have the capacity to develop into different types of cells by reprogramming their DNA to turn on different combinations of genes, a process called "differentiation." ...

Ovaries must suppress their inner male

Dec 10, 2009

For an ovary to remain an ovary, the female organ has to continuously suppress its inner capacity to become male. That's the conclusion of a study in the December 11th issue of the journal Cell revealing that t ...

New research provides insight into menopause

Mar 31, 2008

Insight into why females of some species undergo menopause while others do not has proven elusive despite an understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the change.

Recommended for you

Right environment could improve stem cell therapies

Oct 23, 2014

Stem cell therapies are being hailed as a potential cure for many major health conditions, but there is much still to learn about the highly complex environments needed to optimise these therapies, according to researchers ...

User comments : 0