An international team, led by the University of Western Australia, has found that the antibodies to glycoprotein zona pellucida 3 (ZP3) greatly depleted follicles within the ovary, causing complete infertility in mice.
The glycoprotein zona pellucida 3 is a vital component of ovarian follicles that is important for their development and enables fertilisation to occur.
The mice were given a genetically modified virus expressing the glycoprotein ZP3 which caused an immune response to the protein and the subsequent production of antibodies.
Presence of the antibodies in the mice resulted in a fertility reduction within 14 days and complete infertility within 21 days.
Dr Megan Lloyd, who led the team, says these results show it is possible antibodies to ZP3 contribute to ovarian damage in humans. "In humans there are a number of women who have infertility of unknown cause and a proportion of these women do have antibodies to ZP3. The importance of these antibodies is really difficult to determine because usually if you have infertility you're probably quite away through the disease process already," Dr Lloyd said.