The majority of ovarian follicles undergo atresia, a hormonally controlled apoptotic process. Monitoring apoptotic DNA fragmentation provides a quantitative and sensitive endpoint to study the hormonal regulation of atresia in ovarian follicles. During follicle development, gonadotropins, together with local ovarian growth factors (IGF-I, EGF/TGF-α, basic FGF) and cytokine (interleukin-1β), as well as estrogens, activate different intracellular pathways to rescue follicles from apoptotic demise. In contrast, TNF-α, Fas ligand, presumably acting through receptors with a death domain, and androgens are atretogenic factors. These diverse hormonal signals probably converge on selective intracellular pathways (including genes of the bcl-2 and ICE families) to regulate apoptosis. With a constant loss of follicles from the original stockpile, the ovary provides a unique model for studying the hormonal regulation of apoptosis.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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