Genes in sterol/steroid and lipid biosynthetic pathways are targets of FSH and FOXO1 regulation in granulosa cells: evidence from cells expressing mutant forms of FOXO1. Liu Z et al. The forkhead box transcription factor FOXO1 is highly expressed in granulosa cells of growing follicles but is down-regulated by FSH in culture or by LH-induced luteinization in vivo. To analyze the function of FOXO1, we infected rat and mouse granulosa cells with adenoviral vectors expressing two FOXO1 mutants: a gain-of-function mutant FOXOA3 that has three serine residues mutated to alanines rendering this protein constitutively active and nuclear and FOXOA3-mDBD in which the DNA binding domain is mutated. The infected cells were then treated with vehicle or FSH for specific time intervals. Infection of the granulosa cells was highly efficient, caused only minimal apoptosis and maintained FOXO1 protein at levels of the endogenous protein observed in cells prior to exposure to FSH. RNA was prepared from control and adenoviral infected cells exposed to vehicle or FSH for 12 and 24h. Affymetrix microarray and data-base analyses identified, and real time RT-PCR verified, that genes within the lipid, sterol and steroidogenic biosynthetic pathways (Hmgcs1, Hmgcr, Mvk, Sqle, Lss, Cyp51, Tm7sf2, Dhcr24 and Star, Cyp11a1 and Cyp19), including two key transcriptional regulators Srebf1 and Srebf2 of cholesterol biosynthesis and steroidogenesis (Nr5a1, Nr5a2) were major targets induced by FSH and suppressed by FOXOA3 and FOXOA3-mDBD in the cultured granulosa cells. By contrast, FOXOA3 and FOXOA3-mDBD induced expression of Cyp27a1 mRNA that encodes an enzyme involved in cholesterol catabolism to oxysterols. The genes up-regulated by FSH in cultured granulosa cells were also induced in granulosa cells of preovulatory follicles and corpora lutea collected from immature mice primed with FSH (eCG) and LH (hCG), respectively. Conversely, Foxo1 and Cyp27a1 mRNAs were reduced by these same treatments. Collectively, these data provide novel evidence that FOXO1 may play a key role in granulosa cells to modulate lipid and sterol biosynthesis, thereby preventing elevated steroidogenesis during early stages of follicle development.