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Hum Reprod Update. 2005 Mar-Apr;11(2):162-77. Epub 2005 Feb 10.

Apoptosis in the ovary: molecular mechanisms.

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Department of Pathology, Assiut University Hospitals, Assiut, Egypt.


Cell death was first described in rabbit ovaries (Graaffian follicles), the phenomenon being called 'chromatolysis' rather than apoptosis. In humans, the ovarian endowment of primordial follicles is established during fetal life. Apoptotic cell death depletes this endowment by at least two-thirds before birth, executed with the help of several players and pathways conserved from worms to humans. To date, apoptosis has been reported to be involved in oogenesis, folliculogenesis, oocyte loss/selection and atresia. Several pro-survival and pro-apoptotic molecules are involved in ovarian apoptosis with the delicate balance between them being the determinant for the final destiny of the follicular cells. This review critically analyses the current knowledge about the biological roles of these molecules and their relevance to the dynamics of follicle development. It also presents the existing literature and assesses the gaps in our knowledge.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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