Pharmacological Inhibition of the DNA Damage Checkpoint Prevents Radiation-Induced Oocyte Death.
Ovarian function is directly correlated with survival of the primordial follicle reserve. Women diagnosed with cancer have a primary imperative of treating the cancer, but since the resting oocytes are hypersensitive to the DNA-damaging modalities of certain chemo- and radiotherapeutic regimens, such patients face the collateral outcome of premature loss of fertility and ovarian endocrine function. Current options for fertility preservation primarily include collection and cryopreservation of oocytes or in vitro fertilized oocytes, but this necessitates a delay in cancer treatment and additional assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures. Here, we evaluated the potential of pharmacological preservation of ovarian function by inhibiting a key element of the oocyte DNA damage checkpoint response, checkpoint kinase 2 (CHK2; CHEK2). Whereas non-lethal doses of ionizing radiation (IR) eradicate immature oocytes in wild type mice, irradiated Chk2(-/-) mice retain their oocytes and thus, fertility. Using an ovarian culture system, we show that transient administration of the CHK2 inhibitor 2-(4-(4-Chlorophenoxy)phenyl)-1H-benzimidazole-5-carboxamide-hydrate ("CHK2iII") blocked activation of the CHK2 targets TRP53 and TRP63 in response to sterilizing doses of IR, and preserved oocyte viability. After transfer into sterilized host females, these ovaries proved functional and readily yielded normal offspring. These results provide experimental evidence that chemical inhibition of CHK2 is a potentially effective treatment for preserving fertility and ovarian endocrine function of women exposed to DNA-damaging cancer therapies such as IR.