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Reprod Sci. 2015 Jul;22(7):884-903. doi: 10.1177/1933719115576727. Epub 2015 Mar 16.

Mouse Ovarian Very Small Embryonic-Like Stem Cells Resist Chemotherapy and Retain Ability to Initiate Oocyte-Specific Differentiation.

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Stem Cell Biology Department, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.
Stem Cell Biology Department, National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India


This study was undertaken to investigate stem cells in adult mouse ovary, the effect of chemotherapy on them and their potential to differentiate into germ cells. Very small embryonic-like stem cells (VSELs) that were SCA-1+/Lin-/CD45-, positive for nuclear octamer-binding transforming factor 4 (OCT-4), Nanog, and cell surface stage-specific embryonic antigen 1, were identified in adult mouse ovary. Chemotherapy resulted in complete loss of follicular reserve and cytoplasmic OCT-4 positive progenitors (ovarian germ stem cells) but VSELs survived. In ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cell cultures from chemoablated ovary, proliferating germ cell clusters and mouse vasa homolog/growth differentiation factor 9-positive oocyte-like structure were observed by day 6, probably arising as a result of differentiation of the surviving VSELs. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) exerted a direct stimulatory action on the OSE and induced stem cells proliferation and differentiation into premeiotic germ cell clusters during intact chemoablated ovaries culture. The FSH analog pregnant mare serum gonadotropin treatment to chemoablated mice increased the percentage of surviving VSELs in ovary. The results of this study provide evidence for the presence of potential VSELs in mouse ovaries and show that they survive chemotherapy, are modulated by FSH, and retain the ability to undergo oocyte-specific differentiation. These results show relevance to women who undergo premature ovarian failure because of oncotherapy.


FSH; OCT-4; VSELs; ovary; stem cells

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