Genetic or environmental factors that affect the endowment of oocytes, their assembly into primordial follicles, or their subsequent entry into the growing follicle pool can disrupt reproductive function and may underlie disorders such as primary ovarian insufficiency. Mouse models have been instrumental in identifying genes important in ovarian development, and a number of genes now associated with ovarian dysfunction in women were first identified as causing reproductive defects in knockout mice. The transforming growth factor beta (TGFB) family consists of developmentally important growth factors that include the TGFBs, anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), activins, bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), and growth and differentiation factor 9 (GDF9). The ovarian primordial follicle pool is the source of oocytes in adults. Development of this pool can be grossly divided into three key processes: (1) establishment of oocytes during embryogenesis followed by (2) assembly and (3) activation of the primordial follicle. Disruptions in any of these processes may cause reproductive dysfunction. Most members of the TGFB family show pivotal roles in each of these areas. Understanding the phenotypes of various mouse models for this protein family will be directly relevant to understanding how disruptions in TGFB family signaling result in reproductive diseases in women and will present new areas for development of tailored diagnostics and interventions for infertility.
Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.