Core Binding Factors (CBFs) are a small group of heterodimeric transcription factor complexes composed of DNA binding proteins, RUNXs, and a non-DNA binding protein, CBFB. The LH surge increases the expression of Runx1 and Runx2 in ovulatory follicles, while Cbfb is constitutively expressed. To investigate the physiological significance of CBFs, we generated a conditional mutant mouse model in which granulosa cell expression of Runx2 and Cbfb was deleted by the Esr2Cre. Female Cbfbflox/flox;Esr2cre/+;Runx2flox/flox mice were infertile; follicles developed to the preovulatory follicle stage but failed to ovulate. RNA-seq analysis of mutant mouse ovaries collected at 11 h post-hCG unveiled numerous CBFs-downstream genes that are associated with inflammation, matrix remodeling, wnt signaling, and steroid metabolism. Mutant mice also failed to develop corpora lutea, as evident by the lack of luteal marker gene expression, marked reduction of vascularization, and excessive apoptotic staining in unruptured poorly luteinized follicles, consistent with dramatic reduction of progesterone by 24 h after hCG administration. The present study provides in vivo evidence that CBFs act as essential transcriptional regulators of both ovulation and luteinization by regulating the expression of key genes that are involved in inflammation, matrix remodeling, cell differentiation, vascularization, and steroid metabolisms in mice.
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