Intrafollicular barriers and cellular interactions during ovarian follicle development
Gabriella Mamede Andrade, Maite del Collado, Flávio Vieira Meirelles, Juliano Coelho da Silveira, Felipe Perecin
Follicles are composed of different interdependent cell types including oocytes, cumulus, granulosa, and theca cells. Follicular cells and oocytes exchange signaling molecules from the beginning of the development of the primordial follicles until the moment of ovulation. The follicular structure transforms during folliculogenesis; barriers form between the germ and the somatic follicular cells, and between the somatic follicular cells. As such, communication systems need to adapt to maintain the exchange of signaling molecules. Two critical barriers are established at different stages of development: the zona pellucida, separating the oocyte and the cumulus cells limiting the communication through specific connections, and the antrum, separating subpopulations of follicular cells. In both situations, communication is maintained either by the development of specialized connections as transzonal projections or by paracrine signaling and trafficking of extracellular vesicles through the follicular fluid. The bidirectional communication between the oocytes and the follicle cells is vital for driving folliculogenesis and oogenesis. These communication systems are associated with essential functions related to follicular development, oocyte competence, and embryonic quality. Here, we discuss the formation of the zona pellucida and antrum during folliculogenesis, and their importance in follicle and oocyte development. Moreover, this review discusses the current knowledge on the cellular mechanisms such as the movement of molecules via transzonal projections, and the exchange of extracellular vesicles by follicular cells to overcome these barriers to support female gamete development. Finally, we highlight the undiscovered aspects related to intrafollicular communication among the germ and somatic cells, and between the somatic follicular cells and give our perspective on manipulating the above-mentioned cellular communication to improve reproductive technologies.
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