The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) belongs to the family Callitrichidae, the only anthropoid primates with a high and variable number of ovulations (one to four). An understanding of folliculogenesis in this species may provide some insight into factors regulating multiple follicular growth in primates. The aims of this study were to characterize in detail changes in the antral follicle population at different stages of the ovarian cycle, to characterize the marmoset FSH profile, and to relate cyclic changes in FSH to changes in follicle sizes and circulating estradiol concentrations. Fifty-five pairs of ovaries were collected (32 of which were at five distinct stages of the cycle) from adult marmosets, and antral follicles were manually excised and separated into four size groups. Daily urinary FSH and plasma estradiol and progesterone concentrations from Day 0 of the follicular phase to 2 days postovulation were measured in 22 marmosets using enzyme immunoassays. The FSH profile revealed two distinct peaks, on Days 2 and 6, during the 10-day follicular phase, with a marginal periovulatory increase on Days 9 and 10. Estradiol levels rose significantly (P < 0.05) above baseline (Days 1–4) on Day 5 and continuously increased to a peak on the day preceding ovulation (Days 8 and 9). Follicle dissection revealed a high (mean = 68) and variable (range, 14–158) total number of antral follicles >0.6 mm. The number of antral follicles significantly declined (P < 0.001) with age. The number of preovulatory follicles (>2 mm) was positively correlated with the number of antral follicles (P < 0.001) and tended to be negatively related to age (P = 0.06). The number of antral follicles did not vary significantly with stage of the ovarian cycle, although the follicle size distribution was cycle-stage dependent (P < 0.05). Follicles >1.0 mm appeared only in the follicular phase, and preovulatory follicles (>2.0 mm) appeared only at the end of the follicular phase (Days 7–9). The Day 2 FSH peak corresponded to emergence of a population of medium-size antral follicles, and the Day 6 peak was consistent with rising estradiol levels and appearance of the preovulatory follicles. These results suggest that some aspects of marmoset folliculogenesis are comparable to those in Old World primates, including the absence of multiple follicular waves and the appearance of an identifiable dominant follicle in the midfollicular phase. However, the midphase FSH peak, multiple dominant follicles, and abundance of nonovulatory antral follicles differ strongly from the pattern in Old World primates and humans. The findings are discussed in relation to the regulation of growth of multiple ovulatory follicles and provide the basis for further studies on factors influencing the dynamics of follicular growth and development in this species.
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