More than half of the primordial follicles that are formed by Day 6 of postnatal life in the mouse will be eliminated from the ovary by the time of puberty. Apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death, is one mechanism by which these follicles could be actively lost. To investigate whether apoptosis is responsible for the loss of primordial follicles, follicular atresia was examined during the prepubertal period, when follicles die and are cleared from the ovary at an extremely high rate. Four hallmarks of classical apoptosis were measured in follicles present in prepubertal ovaries. The primordial follicle cohort was not positively associated with nuclear condensation or cell shrinkage, activation of caspase 3, cleavage of poly(ADP ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), or fragmentation of DNA. These data are consistent with a nonapoptotic pathway that is responsible for small follicle death.
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