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Longfei Xiao, Zihui Wang, Ning Lu, Yanan He, Limin Qiao, Xihui Sheng, Xiaolong Qi, Kai Xing, Yong Guo, Di Chang, Xiangguo Wang, Junjin Zhao, Xiaobin Deng, Hemin Ni, and Jian Kang

Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a pivotal role in angiogenesis in ovaries, particularly during follicular development and ovulation. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is one of the major pro-inflammatory factors that are involved in the angiogenesis process physiologically and pathologically. Previous studies have shown that 17β-estradiol (E2) stimulates VEGF expression by upregulating hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) in many cell types, and the high level of E2 causes an inflammatory-like microenvironment before ovulation. However, whether IL-6 signaling is involved in E2-regulating VEGF expression in swine granulosa cells (GCs) is still unknown. In this study, we found the estrogen membrane receptor, G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER), was expressed in swine GCs, and the expression level of GPER, HIF-1α, and VEGF increased with follicular development. In vitro study showed that E2, ICI182780, and GPER agonist (G1) promoted the expressions of HIF-1α and VEGF in swine GCs, while GPER antagonist (G15) inhibited the stimulating effect of E2 and G1. Meanwhile, G15 inhibited the stimulating effect of E2 and G1 on IL-6 mRNA expression and secretion. Furthermore, IL-6 antibody and AG490 (JAK2/STAT3 inhibitor) attenuated G1-induced HIF-1α and VEGF expression. In conclusion, this study revealed how estrogen-induced HIF-1α and VEGF expressions in swine GCs are mediated through GPER-derived IL-6 secretion leading to JAK2/STAT3 activation.