Cellular and microvascular changes of the ovarian follicle during folliculogenesis: a scanning electron microscopic study.

G. Macchiarelli, E. Vizza, S. A. Nottola, G. Familiari, P. M. Motta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In order to study the three-dimensional topographic arrangement of the oocyte and zona pellucida, follicular cells and follicle microvasculature, this study applied alkali maceration methods for tissue exposure, the ruthenium red-detergent method for the extracellular matrix visualization, and the vascular corrosion cast technique to rabbits, guinea-pigs and mice ovaries at different stages of follicular development. Macerated samples showed a gradual differentiation of the oocyte surface. This, in primordial follicles, appeared rather smooth, but, with the follicular development, displayed a gradual increase of blebs and microvilli. The latter widely covered the surface of oocytes contained in large or mature follicles. The outer surface of the zona pellucida showed numerous fenestrations, whereas the inner one was smooth. The ruthenium red-detergent method permitted a well detailed view of the filamentous texture of the zona pellucida. The three-dimensional distribution of the contacts between oocyte and neighbouring follicular cells was clearly evaluated in macerated samples. Follicular cells of primary follicles were characterized by their short cytoplasmic processes reaching the oocyte surface. In secondary follicles, these processes issued secondary processes. In larger follicles, the secondary processes of the corona cells were much longer and thinner, and took a tortuous course to reach the oocyte surface, which ran among the numerous oocyte microvilli. This microvillous arrangement greatly increases contact between the oocyte and corona cells, and suggests a coordinated reciprocal control of the activities of both cell types. These data also showed that the spongy and filamentous nature of the zona pellucida is closely dependent upon the temporal differentiation and enormous increase in number of follicular cell projections and their ramifications. Maceration revealed the theca cells surface. In smaller follicles these appeared as fusiform cells which resembled fibroblasts. In larger or mature follicles, many theca cells differentiated to possess morphological features of steroidogenic cells. In addition, these cells delimited a series of intercellular communicating lacunae, continuous with wide pericapillary spaces. The gradual differentiation of the follicle towards a structure having an endocrinal role was further emphasized in vascular corrosion casts. A simple microvascular net made of thin capillaries supplying primary follicles was seen to transform into an elaborate sinusoidal network made of thick permeable capillaries, supplying mature follicles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-204
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of Histology and Cytology
Volume55 Suppl
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


Dive into the research topics of 'Cellular and microvascular changes of the ovarian follicle during folliculogenesis: a scanning electron microscopic study.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this