In-vitro regulation of primordial follicle activation: challenges for fertility preservation strategies

Reprod Biomed Online. 2018 May;36(5):491-499. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2018.01.014. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


Ovarian tissue is increasingly being collected from cancer patients and cryopreserved for fertility preservation. While the only available option to restore fertility is autologous transplantation, this treatment is not appropriate for all patients due to the risk of reintroducing cancer cells and causing disease recurrence. Harnessing the full reproductive potential of this tissue to restore fertility requires the development of culture systems that support oocyte development from the primordial follicle stage. While this has been achieved in the mouse, the goal of obtaining oocytes of sufficient quality to support embryo development has not been reached in higher mammals despite decades of effort. In vivo, primordial follicles gradually exit the resting pool, whereas when primordial follicles are placed into culture, global activation of these follicles occurs. Therefore, the addition of a factor(s) that can regulate primordial follicle activation in vitro may be beneficial to the development of culture systems for ovarian tissue from cancer patients. Several factors have been observed to inhibit follicle activation, including anti-Müllerian hormone, stromal-derived factor 1 and members of the c-Jun-N-terminal kinase pathway. This review summarizes the findings from studies of these factors and discusses their potential integration into ovarian tissue culture strategies for fertility preservation.

Keywords: AMH; Anti-Müllerian hormone; Fertility preservation; In-vitro culture; Primordial follicle activation; c-Jun.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone / pharmacology
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fertility Preservation / methods*
  • Humans
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Ovarian Follicle / drug effects
  • Ovarian Follicle / growth & development*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tissue Culture Techniques*


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Anti-Mullerian Hormone
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases