Oocyte loss, either directly through attrition (germ cell death) or indirectly through follicular atresia (somatic or granulosa cell death), is a fundamental event associated with defining the time of normal or premature reproductive senescence in females. Although apoptosis has been reported to function as the underlying mechanism responsible for death of both germ cells and somatic cells in the ovary, the final molecular steps which commit ovarian cells to death have not been fully elucidated. To examine if death repressor activity of the bcl-2 gene product is important for germ cell survival, we conducted studies using a Bcl-2 loss-of-function (bcl-2 -/-) transgenic mouse model. Histological analyses revealed that ovaries collected from bcl-2 -/- mice possessed numerous aberrantly formed primordial follicle-like structures containing a single layer of granulosa cells without an oocyte. Additionally, the total number of primordial follicles present which contained a healthy oocyte was markedly reduced in bcl-2 -/- mice as compared to heterozygote (bcl-2 -/+) or wild-type (bcl-2 +/+) mice, suggesting that expression of the bcl-2 death repressor gene is critical for endowment of a normal complement of germ cells and primordial follicles in the mammalian ovary.
ASJC Scopus subject areas