Arrest at the diplotene stage of meiotic prophase I is delayed by progesterone but is not required for primordial follicle formation in mice

Sudipta Dutta, Deion M. Burks, Melissa E. Pepling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: In mammalian females, reproductive capacity is determined by the size of the primordial follicle pool. During embryogenesis, oogonia divide mitotically but cytokinesis is incomplete so oogonia remain connected in germ cell cysts. Oogonia begin to enter meiosis at 13.5 days postcoitum in the mouse and over several days, oocytes progress through the stages of meiotic prophase I arresting in the diplotene stage. Concurrently, germ cell cysts break apart and individual oocytes become surrounded by granulosa cells forming primordial follicles. In rats, inhibition of a synaptonemal complex protein caused premature arrival at the diplotene stage and premature primordial follicle assembly suggesting diplotene arrest might trigger primordial follicle formation. Cyst breakdown and primordial follicle formation are blocked by exposure to steroid hormones but hormone effects on the timing of diplotene arrest are unclear. Here, we asked: (1) if oocytes were required to arrest in diplotene before follicles formed, (2) if all oocytes within a germ cell cyst arrested at diplotene synchronously, and (3) if steroid hormones affected progression through prophase I. Methods: Meiotic stage and follicle formation were assessed in histological sections. Statistical differences over time were determined using one-way ANOVA followed by Newman-Keuls multiple comparisons test. To determine if steroid hormones affect the rate of progression to the diplotene stage, 17.5 dpc ovaries were placed in organ culture with media containing estradiol, progesterone or both hormones. In this case, differences were determined using one-way ANOVA followed by Dunnett's multiple comparisons test. Results: We found primordial follicles containing oocytes at the diplotene stage as well as follicles containing oocytes at pre-diplotene stages. We also found individual germ cell cysts containing oocytes at both diplotene and pre-diplotene stages. Progesterone but not estradiol reduced the number of diplotene oocytes in ovary organ culture. Conclusions: Our results suggest that meiotic progression and primordial follicle formation are independent events. In addition, oocytes in germ cell cysts do not synchronously proceed through meiosis. Finally, only progesterone delayed transit though meiotic prophase I.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
JournalReproductive Biology and Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 5 2016


  • Diplotene arrest
  • Fetal oocyte development
  • Meiotic prophase I progression
  • Primordial follicle formation
  • Steroid hormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology


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