The formation of the follicular antrum and follicular fluid has received scant attention from researchers, yet both are important processes in follicular development. The central hypothesis on follicular fluid formation suggests that production by granulosa cells of hyaluronan and the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan versican generates an osmotic gradient. This gradient draws in fluid derived from the thecal vasculature. Inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor is also present in follicular fluid at least in species with large follicles, and inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor and versican could additionally bind or cross-link with hyaluronan, resulting in the retention of these molecules within the follicular antrum. Barriers to the movement of fluid across the membrana granulosa are apparently minimal, as even relatively large serum proteins are present in follicular fluid. Despite the relative permeability of the follicular wall, aquaporins are present in granulosa cells and could be actively involved in the transport of water into the follicle. The formation of an antrum also requires movement of granulosa cells relative to each other to allow the fluid to accumulate. This presumably involves remodeling of cell-cell junctions and in species with small follicles may involve death of centrally located granulosa cells. Remodeling of the stroma and thecal layers also accompanies growth and expansion of the antrum and presumably involves similar processes that accompany growth of other glands.
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Vol. 82 • No. 6