A series of experiments have been carried out to determine whether follicles secrete factors able to affect the growth and development of other, like-sized follicles. Late preantral mouse ovarian follicles were either cocultured or cultured in media conditioned by previously cultured follicles. In particular, the experiments examined whether follicles do secrete such factors, whether the level of FSH in the culture media can affect that process, and what the nature of such secretory factor(s) might be. First, pairs of follicles were cocultured across a polycarbonate membrane containing pores. This showed that communication between the follicles resulted in the stimulation of growth and that the stimulation was due, at least in part, to the production of secretory factor(s). In subsequent experiments, follicles were cultured in media that had been preconditioned by previously cultured follicles. The concentration of FSH in the cultures determined the effect of the conditioned media: conditioned media was stimulatory to follicle growth when levels of FSH remained high throughout the culture, but inhibitory when FSH levels were dropped midway through the cultures. Heat inactivation removed this inhibitory effect, showing that the factor was likely to be a protein; addition of follistatin to the conditioned media did not alter its effect, indicating that the factor was unlikely to be activin. We have shown through a series of culture experiments that mouse follicles secrete factor(s) that can affect the development of other like-sized follicles when cultured from the late preantral to Graafian stages. Furthermore, we have shown that the effect (or production) of such factors is dependent on the FSH environment of the follicles.
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