Stem cells, progenitor cells and lineage decisions in the ovary

Katja Hummitzsch, Richard A Anderson, Dagmar Wilhelm, Ji Wu, Evelyn E Telfer, Darryl L Russell, Sarah Robertson, Raymond J Rodgers

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91 Citations (Scopus)


Exploring stem cells in the mammalian ovary has unleashed a Pandora s box of new insights and questions. Recent evidence supports the existence of stem cells of a number of the different cell types within the ovary. The evidence for a stem cell model producing mural granulosa cells and cumulus cells is strong, despite a limited number of reports. The recent identification of a precursor granulosa cell, the gonadal ridge epithelial-like (GREL) cell, is exciting and novel. The identification of female germline (oogonial) stem cells is still very new and is currently limited to just a few species. Their origins and physiological roles, if any, are unknown and their potential to produce oocytes and contribute to follicle formation in vivo lacks robust evidence. The precursor of thecal cells remains elusive and more compelling data are needed. Similarly, claims of very small epithelial-like (VSEL) cells are also preliminary. Surface epithelial cells originating from GREL cells and from the mesonephric epithelium at the hilum of the ovary have also been proposed. Another important issue is the role of the stroma in guiding the formation of the ovary, ovigerous cords, follicles and surface epithelium. Immune cells may also play key roles in developmental patterning, given their critical roles in corpora lutea formation and regression. Thus, whilst the cellular biology of the ovary is extremely important for its major endocrine and fertility roles, there is much still to be discovered. This review draws together the current evidence and perspectives on this topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65 - 91
Number of pages27
JournalEndocrine Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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