To identify and describe ovarian follicles committed to undergo follicular degeneration (atresia), immature rats were primed with pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG). After PMSG treatment, preovulatory follicles develop but subsequently degenerate. Prior to the appearance of pyknotic nuclei (Stage I of atresia), degenerative changes were observed in focal areas of the granulosa cell layer. These changes include “blebbing” of the cytoplasm and alterations in the shape of the granulosa cells. The appearance of these degenerative changes coincides with a decrease in ovarian concentrations of estradiol and testosterone. Since estrogens and androgens maintain the follicle, the decline in estradiol and testosterone could be responsible for the further degenerative alterations that lead to complete deterioration of the preovulatory follicle. In Stage I atretic follicles, lysosome-derived autophagic vacuoles develop and macrophages invade both the thecal and granulosa cell layers. The combined actions of the autophagic vacuoles and macrophages could destroy both the granulosa-cell and thecal layers and thereby transform the preovulatory follicle into an ovarian cyst.
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Peluso, J.J., England-Charlesworth, C., Bolender, D.L. et al. Ultrastructural alterations associated with the initiation of follicular atresia. Cell Tissue Res. 211, 105–115 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00233727
- Preovulatory follicle