The observation of pups born from recipient and donor mice after ovariectomy followed by ovarian transplant poses the interesting possibility of an extraovarian source of oocytes. However, whether mammalian adult oocytes reside in extragonadal tissues remains elusive. Using transgenic fluorescent reporter mice and transplantation surgeries, we demonstrate the presence of both donorand recipient-derived corpora lutea and recovery of both donor- and recipient-derived offspring from ovariectomized mice after transplantation of donor ovaries. A potential region for extraovarian oocytes is the hilum, a ligament-like structure between the ovary and the reproductive tract. Immunofluorescent confocal microscopy of mouse ovaries and reproductive tracts revealed that a population of primordial follicles resides outside the ovary within the hilum. Ovariectomy-only controls confirmed that oocytes remain in the recipient hilum after surgery. These results provide evidence that the hilum is a reserve source of follicles, which likely return to the ovary for maturation and ovulation. By identifying a new follicle reservoir, our study addresses a long-standing question in reproductive biology and contributes to new conceptual knowledge about ovarian function and fertility.
An extraovarian source of oocytes exists within the mouse ovarian hilum, amuscular structure that connects the ovary to the reproductive tract; these oocytes reside within primordial and primary follicles and may contribute to female fertility.