Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Development of the membrana granulosa of bovine antral follicles: structure, location of mitosis and pyknosis, and immunolocalization of involucrin and vimentin

I. L. van Wezel, R. J. Rodgers and M. Krupa

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 11(1) 37 - 48
Published: 1999


The membrana granulosa of the ovarian follicle is termed the ‘follicular epithelium’, yet there have been no studies considering its epithelial nature and how it changes during follicular development. Therefore, these issues were investigated using histology (n = 45 ovaries), considering its structure and the location of proliferating and dying cells, and drawing analogies with other epithelia. Additionally, differences between the layers of granulosa cells were demonstrated by immunohistochemistry (n =7 ovaries). The structure of the membrana granulosa differed between follicles. Six arbitrary classifications were designed based on these structures, 80 follicles were allocated (n = 13 ovaries) to these classes and the follicular diameters were then measured. For the first time, differences in membrana granulosa structure were shown to correspond to follicle size. Follicles in classes 1–3, where basal granulosa cells were columnar with nuclei positioned basally in the cell, were all ≤3 mm in diameter. All follicles larger than 3 mm had either columnar basal cells with nuclei positioned centrally (class 4), or had rounded basal cells (class 5), and all follicles >5 mm had only rounded basal cells. In all these classes, cells in the middle zone were rounded; cells aligning the antrum were often flattened. Irrespective of follicle class, cell proliferation and cell death were shown to be predominantly in the middle portions, rather than the most antral or most basal portions, of the membrana granulosa of healthy and atretic follicles. Involucrin, a marker of keratinocyte differentiation, was localized to the suprabasal region of the membrana granulosa of healthy follicles, particularly in the second and third cellular layers in from the follicular basal lamina. Conversely, the staining intensity for the intermediate filament protein vimentin was lowest in this region, and greatest in the more antral and basal regions. In atretic follicles, there was widespread staining for involucrin and vimentin throughout the membrana granulosa. In conclusion, the membrana granulosa is highly structured, and alters with follicular development. Layers in the membrana granulosa can differ in terms of cell shape, and differ in proliferation and gene expression. In the light of the current work, and an associated study, it is proposed that proliferation occurs in the middle layers, and that granulosa cells then progress basally or antrally, the latter undergoing terminal differentiation.

© CSIRO 1999

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