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Rev Reprod. 1996 Sep;1(3):162-72.

Apoptosis and ovarian function.

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Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.


For decades, the mechanisms responsible for germ cell depletion from the ovary, either directly during the perinatal period or indirectly via follicular atresia during postnatal life, have remained relatively obscure. The recent application of sensitive biochemical techniques for the study of cell death to the analysis of ovarian function has revealed that these two events, as well as a third instance of ovarian cell degeneration (luteolysis), are dependent upon the activation of physiological cell death mechanisms. It is therefore hypothesized that the controlled deletion of ovarian cell populations is accomplished via activation of a 'universal' pathway of cellular suicide involving altered expression of a conserved cohort of genes. The identity of the hormonal and intracellular effectors responsible for the coordination of life and death decisions made by ovarian cells during development as well as the biological and clinical implications of gene-directed cell death in the ovary are explored in this review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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