Summary. Preantral follicles from pro-oestrous and oestrous hamsters were isolated enzymically (Stages 1–5) and by microdissection (Stage 6) and cultured for up to 168 h in the absence or presence of 100 ng ovine FSH or LH separately or combined or 1 or 10 μg progesterone or oestradiol-17β in serum-free defined medium and exposed to 1 μCi [3H]thymidine for 24 h before termination. In the presence of insulin and hydrocortisone but not gonadotrophins, the morphology of follicles from pro-oestrous animals at Stages 1–4 (1–4 layers granulosa cells; no theca) were unaffected for up to 48 h whereas for Stages 5 (5–6 layers granulosa cells and developing theca) and 6 (7–8 layers granulosa cells and theca), atresia was prominent by 24 h. FSH significantly reduced the percentage of atretic follicles in Stages 1–5 throughout the culture period; but was effective only up to 96 h for Stage-6 follicles. LH was also effective, albeit to a lesser extent. FSH increased follicular labelling indexes during every 24-h labelling period and, during a pulse-chase period, follicular DNA content and granulosa cell numbers. FSH, but not LH, induced differentiation by 96 h of preantral follicles at Stage 6 into small antral stages (Stages 7–8). FSH and LH together induced almost the same effect as FSH alone. However, neither progesterone nor oestradiol had any significant long-term effects on DNA synthesis and oestradiol induced atresia beyond 24 h. Both FSH and LH induced follicular maturation in vitro as evident from increases in progesterone, androstenedione and oestradiol production. Follicles (Stages 1–4) collected from oestrous hamsters responded to FSH to a lesser extent than did those from pro-oestrous animals, possibly because of in-vivo exposure to periovulatory changes in gonadotrophins; however, an antrum formed in Stage-6 follicles by 72 h.
Keywords: preantral follicle; hamster; long-term culture; DNA synthesis; gonadotrophins
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