Molecular mechanisms underlying the activation of mammalian primordial follicles.
Adhikari Deepak,Liu Kui
In humans and other mammalian species, the pool of resting primordial follicles serves as the source of developing follicles and fertilizable ova for the entire length of female reproductive life. One question that has intrigued biologists is: what are the mechanisms controlling the activation of dormant primordial follicles. Studies from previous decades have laid a solid, but yet incomplete, foundation. In recent years, molecular mechanisms underlying follicular activation have become more evident, mainly through the use of genetically modified mouse models. As hypothesized in the 1990s, the pool of primordial follicles is now known to be maintained in a dormant state by various forms of inhibitory machinery, which are provided by several inhibitory signals and molecules. Several recently reported mutant mouse models have shown that a synergistic and coordinated suppression of follicular activation provided by multiple inhibitory molecules is necessary to preserve the dormant follicular pool. Loss of function of any of the inhibitory molecules for follicular activation, including PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10), Foxo3a, p27, and Foxl2, leads to premature and irreversible activation of the primordial follicle pool. Such global activation of the primordial follicle pool leads to the exhaustion of the resting follicle reserve, resulting in premature ovarian failure in mice. In this review, we summarize both historical and recent results on mammalian primordial follicular activation and focus on the up-to-date knowledge of molecular networks controlling this important physiological event. We believe that information obtained from mutant mouse models may also reflect the molecular machinery responsible for follicular activation in humans. These advances may provide a better understanding of human ovarian physiology and pathophysiology for future clinical applications.
Cellular and molecular regulation of the activation of mammalian primordial follicles: somatic cells initiate follicle activation in adulthood.
Zhang Hua,Liu Kui
Human reproduction update
BACKGROUND:The first small follicles to appear in the mammalian ovaries are primordial follicles. The initial pool of primordial follicles serves as the source of developing follicles and oocytes for the entire reproductive lifespan of the animal. Although the selective activation of primordial follicles is critical for female fertility, its underlying mechanisms have remained poorly understood. METHODS:A search of PubMed was conducted to identify peer-reviewed literature pertinent to the study of mammalian primordial follicle activation, especially recent reports of the role of primordial follicle granulosa cells (pfGCs) in regulating this process. RESULTS:In recent years, molecular mechanisms that regulate the activation of primordial follicles have been elucidated, mostly through the use of genetically modified mouse models. Several molecules and pathways operating in both the somatic pfGCs and oocytes, such as the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase (PI3K) and the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathways, have been shown to be important for primordial follicle activation. More importantly, recent studies have provided an updated view of how exactly signaling pathways in pfGCs and in oocytes, such as the KIT ligand (KL) and KIT, coordinate in adult ovaries so that the activation of primordial follicles is achieved. CONCLUSIONS:In this review, we have provided an updated picture of how mammalian primordial follicles are activated. The functional roles of pfGCs in governing the activation of primordial follicles in adulthood are highlighted. The in-depth understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of primordial follicle activation will hopefully lead to more treatments of female infertility, and the current progress indicates that the use of existing primordial follicles as a source for obtaining fertilizable oocytes as a new treatment for female infertility is just around the corner.
A new model of reproductive aging: the decline in ovarian non-growing follicle number from birth to menopause.
Hansen Karl R,Knowlton Nicholas S,Thyer Angela C,Charleston Jay S,Soules Michael R,Klein Nancy A
Human reproduction (Oxford, England)
BACKGROUND:The primary determinant of reproductive age in women is the number of ovarian non-growing (primordial, intermediate and primary) follicles (NGFs). To better characterize the decline in NGF number associated with aging, we have employed modern stereology techniques to determine NGF number in women from birth to menopause. METHODS:Normal human ovaries were collected from 122 women (aged 0-51 years) undergoing elective oophorectomy, organ donation or autopsy. After gross pathologic examination, systematic random sampling was utilized to obtain tissue for analysis by the fractionator/optical disector method. Models to describe the resulting decay curve were constructed and evaluated. RESULTS:NGF decay was best described by a simple power function: log (y) = ax(b) + c, where a, b and c are constants and y = NGF count at age x (R(2) = 0.84, Sums of Squares Error = 28.18 on 119 degrees of freedom). This model implies that follicles decay faster with increasing age. CONCLUSIONS:Unlike previous models of ovarian follicle depletion, our model predicts no sudden change in decay rate, but rather a constantly increasing rate. The model not only agrees well with observed ages of menopause in women, but also is more biologically plausible than previous models. Although the model represents a significant improvement compared with earlier attempts, a considerable percentage of the variation in NGF number between women cannot be explained by age alone.
Female reproductive ageing: current knowledge and future trends.
Broekmans Frank J,Knauff Erik A H,te Velde Egbert R,Macklon Nick S,Fauser Bart C
Trends in endocrinology and metabolism: TEM
Over the past few decades, postponement of childbearing has led to a decrease in family size and increased rates of age-related female subfertility. Age-related decrease in ovarian follicle numbers and a decay in oocyte quality dictate the occurrence of natural loss of fecundity and, ultimately, menopause. The rate of this ovarian ageing process is highly variable among women. Identification of women who have severely decreased ovarian reserve for their age is, therefore, clinically relevant. Endocrine and imaging tests for ovarian reserve relate mainly to the quantitative aspect of ovarian reserve, but their capacity to predict the chances for pregnancy is limited. Genetic factors regulating the size of the follicle pool and the rate of its depletion might be identified in the near future and, possibly, assist the accurate prediction of a woman's reproductive lifespan.