ObjectiveThe basic pathological changes of primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) include ovarian tissue fibrosis and follicular development disorders. The human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cell (hUMSC) transplantation has been shown an effective method to improve the ovarian function in POI rat model; however, the exact mechanisms are still unclear. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the recovery of ovarian function in POI rats is related to the inhibition of tissue fibrosis following hUMSC transplantation. Furthermore, the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) signaling pathway is explored to determine the mechanisms of ovarian function recovery through its inhibition of tissue fibrosis.MethodsThe primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) rat model was established by intraperitoneal injection of chemotherapy drug cisplatin (CDDP) for 7 days. The levels of serum sex hormones were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The tissue fibrosis in the ovary was examined using Masson staining and Sirius red staining. The collagen fibers in the ovarian tissues were detected by Western blot analysis. To investigate the mechanisms of ovarian function recovery following hUMSC transplantation, ovarian stromal cells were isolated from the ovarian cortex of immature rats. The expression of Cytochrome P450 17A1 (Cyp17a1) and fibrosis marker of alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) in ovarian stromal cells was examined using immunofluorescence analysis. Also, the protein levels of Cyp17a1 and α-SMA in ovarian stromal cells were examined by Western blot analysis. The expression of TGF-β1 and Smad3 signals was measured by Western blot and quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) analysis.ResultsThe results show that the function of the ovary in POI rats was significantly improved after hUMSC transplantation. The expression of fibrosis markers (α-SMA) and production of Collagen Type I (Collagen I) and Collagen Type III (Collagen III) in POI rats were significantly inhibited in POI rats following hUMSC transplantation. In the cultured ovarian stromal cells, the decrease of TGF-β1 and p-Smad3 protein expression was observed in hUMSC-treated POI rats. The treatment with TGF-β1 inhibitor of SB431542 further confirmed this signal pathway was involved in the process.ConclusionOur study demonstrated that the TGF-β1/Smad3 signaling pathway was involved in the inhibition of ovarian tissue fibrosis, which contributed to the restoration of ovarian function in POI rats following hUMSC transplantation.