Summary. Follicles were isolated from hamster ovaries at 09:00 h and 15:00 h on each of the 4 days of the oestrous cycle (Day 1 = oestrus; Day 4 = pro-oestrus) by microdissection and by a mixture of enzymes and classified into 10 stages with pre-calibrated pipettes (stage 1 = preantral follicles with 1 layer of granulosa cells; stage 10 = preovulatory antral follicles). The follicles at each stage were incubated for 4 h with [3H]thymidine with incorporation expressed per μg follicular DNA or per follicle. A significant increase in thymidine per follicle occurred at 15:00 h on Days 1 and 3 of the cycle from stage 2 (bilaminar follicle) to stage 6 (7–8 layers granulosa cells plus theca). When expressed as thymidine per follicle or μg DNA, there was a significant increase in incorporation for stages 1–4 (4 layers granulosa cells) on Day 4 at 15:00 h compared to 09:00 h, presumably as a consequence of the preovulatory increase in gonadotrophins. Follicles in stages 5 to 8 (preantral follicles with 5 or more layers of granulosa cells to small antral follicles), from which the next set of ovulatory follicles will be selected, did not show a significant peak in incorporation per μg DNA until Day 1 at 09:00 and 15:00 h when the second increase in FSH is in progress. DNA synthesis was similarly sustained throughout Day 1 for stage 1–4 follicles. These results suggest that periovulatory changes in FSH and LH, directly or indirectly, are not only responsible for ovulation and the recruitment of the next set of follicles destined to ovulate but also stimulate DNA replication in smaller follicles which develop over the course of several cycles before they ovulate or become atretic.
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