a1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Tennessee College of Medicine and Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville, Tennessee 37920, USA
At the beginning of the last century, reproductive biologists have discussed whether in mammalian species the fetal oocytes persist or are replaced by neo-oogenesis during adulthood. Currently the prevailing view is that neo-oogenesis is functional in lower vertebrates but not in mammalian species. However, contrary to the evolutionary rules, this suggests that females of lower vertebrates have a better opportunity to provide healthy offspring compared to mammals with oocytes subjected to environmental threats for up to several decades. During the last 15 years, a new effort has been made to determine whether the oocyte pool in adult mammals is renewed as well. Most recently, Ji Wu and colleagues reported a production of offspring from female germline stem cells derived from neonatal and adult mouse ovaries. This indicates that both neonatal and adult mouse ovaries carry stem cells capable of producing functional oocytes. However, it is unclear whether neo-oogenesis from ovarian somatic stem cells is physiologically involved in follicular renewal and why menopause occurs. Here we review observations that indicate an involvement of immunoregulation in physiological neo-oogenesis and follicular renewal from ovarian stem cells during the prime reproductive period and propose why menopause occurs in spite of persisting ovarian stem cells.
(Received August 08 2009)
(Accepted March 20 2010)
(Online publication July 16 2010)