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Hum Genet. 1991 Nov;88(1):64-70.

A test of the production line hypothesis of mammalian oogenesis.

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Division of Molecular and Medical Genetics, United Medical School Guy's Hospital, London Bridge, UK.


Germ cells in female mammals become committed to meiosis and enter its prophase sequentially in fetal life and, according to the Production Line Hypothesis, the oocytes thus generated are released after puberty as mature ova in the same sequence as that of meiotic entry in fetu. This hypothesis in its original and complete form has a subordinate proposition that concerns chiasma (Xma) frequency; it postulates that Xma number would decrease with fetal age. Consequently, univalents would increase, leading to errors of chromosome disjunction at the first meiotic division (MI), and thus to maternal age-dependent numerical chromosome anomalies. By using an in vitro/in vivo approach, we radioactively labelled the DNA of germ cells at premeiotic synthesis as they sequentially entered meiosis, while the fetal ovaries were in culture. At the end of this in vitro phase, pachytene/diplotene (P/D) stages were studied to determine their labelled fraction. The ovaries were then transplanted to spayed females and, after the in vivo phase, mature ova were harvested and the proportion of labelled first and second meiotic metaphases (MI/MII) determined. By marking the germ cells with label while in vitro during periods equivalent to early and late gestation, and by comparing the observed proportions of labelled MI/MII with those of oocytes labelled at P/D, we concluded that, in the mouse, ova do not mature at random for release, but are formed according to a production line system in which the time of release after puberty is related to the time of entry into meiosis in fetu.

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