KIT signaling regulates primordial follicle formation in the neonatal mouse ovary

Robin L. Jones, Melissa E. Pepling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The pool of primordial follicles determines the reproductive lifespan of the mammalian female, and its establishment is highly dependent upon proper oocyte cyst breakdown and regulation of germ cell numbers. The mechanisms controlling these processes remain a mystery. We hypothesized that KIT signaling might play a role in perinatal oocyte cyst breakdown, determination of oocyte numbers and the assembly of primordial follicles. We began by examining the expression of both KIT and KIT ligand in fetal and neonatal ovaries. KIT was expressed only in oocytes during cyst breakdown, but KIT ligand was present in both oocytes and somatic cells as primordial follicles formed. To test whether KIT signaling plays a role in cyst breakdown and primordial follicle formation, we used ovary organ culture to inhibit and activate KIT signaling during the time when these processes occur in the ovary. We found that when KIT was inhibited, there was a reduction in cyst breakdown and an increase in oocyte numbers. Subsequent studies using TUNEL analysis showed that when KIT was inhibited, cell death was reduced. Conversely, when KIT was activated, cyst breakdown was promoted and oocyte numbers decreased. Using Western blotting, we found increased levels of phosphorylated MAP Kinase when KIT ligand was added to culture. Taken together, these results demonstrate a role for KIT signaling in perinatal oocyte cyst breakdown that may be mediated by MAP Kinase downstream of KIT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-197
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Cyst breakdown
  • Follicle formation
  • KIT signaling
  • Oocyte survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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