Single-cell analysis of human ovarian cortex identifies distinct cell populations but no oogonial stem cells

Nat Commun. 2020 Mar 2;11(1):1147. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14936-3.


The human ovary orchestrates sex hormone production and undergoes monthly structural changes to release mature oocytes. The outer lining of the ovary (cortex) has a key role in defining fertility in women as it harbors the ovarian reserve. It has been postulated that putative oogonial stem cells exist in the ovarian cortex and that these can be captured by DDX4 antibody isolation. Here, we report single-cell transcriptomes and cell surface antigen profiles of over 24,000 cells from high quality ovarian cortex samples from 21 patients. Our data identify transcriptional profiles of six main cell types; oocytes, granulosa cells, immune cells, endothelial cells, perivascular cells, and stromal cells. Cells captured by DDX4 antibody are perivascular cells, not oogonial stem cells. Our data do not support the existence of germline stem cells in adult human ovaries, thereby reinforcing the dogma of a limited ovarian reserve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / immunology
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Oogonial Stem Cells*
  • Ovary / cytology*
  • Sex Reassignment Procedures
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Transcriptome


  • Biomarkers
  • DDX4 protein, human
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases