We review age-related changes in the ovary and their effect on female fertility, with particular emphasis on follicle formation, follicle dynamics, and oocyte quality. The evidence indicates that the developmental processes leading to follicle formation set the rules determining follicle quiescence and growth. This regulatory system is maintained until menopause and is directly affected in at least some models of premature ovarian failure (POF), most strikingly in the Foxl2 mouse knockout, a model of human POF with monogenic etiology (blepharophimosis/ptosis/epicanthus inversus syndrome). Several lines of evidence indicate that if the ovarian germ cell lineage maintains regenerative potential, as recently suggested in the mouse, a role in follicle dynamics for germ stem cells, if any, is likely indirect or secondary. In addition, age-related variations in oocyte quality in animal models suggest that reproductive competence is acquired progressively and might depend on parallel growth and differentiation of follicle cells and stroma. Genomewide analyses of the mouse oocyte transcriptome have begun to be used to systematically investigate the mechanisms of reproductive competence that are altered with aging. Investigative and therapeutic strategies can benefit from considering the role of continuous interactions between follicle cells and oocytes from the beginning of histogenesis to full maturation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- History and Philosophy of Science