Background: The process of follicle development is tightly regulated by pituitary gonadotropins (follicle-stimulating hormone [FSH] and luteinizing hormone [LH]) and intraovarian regulators (eg, steroids, growth factors, and cytokines).
Methods: This review outlines recent findings on the mechanisms of human follicle development, based on the research on animal models such as mice, rats, cows, and sheep.
Main findings: Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B signaling pathway and anti-Müllerian hormone are involved in primordial follicle activation during the gonadotropin-independent phase. The intraovarian regulators, such as androgen, insulin-like growth factor system, activin, oocyte-derived factors (growth differentiation factor-9 and bone morphogenetic protein 15), and gap junction membrane channel protein (connexin), play a central role in the acquisition of FSH dependence in preantral follicles during the gonadotropin-responsive phase. Antral follicle development can be divided into FSH-dependent growth and LH-dependent maturation. The indispensable tetralogy for follicle selection and final maturation of antral follicles involves (a) acquisition of LH dependence, (b) greater capacity for E2 production, (c) activation of the IGF system, and (d) an antiapoptotic follicular microenvironment.
Conclusion: We reproductive endocrinologists should accumulate further knowledge from animal model studies to develop methods that promote early folliculogenesis and connect to subsequent gonadotropin therapy in infertile women.
Keywords: follicle development; follicle‐stimulating hormone; growth factor; luteinizing hormone; steroid.
© 2021 The Authors. Reproductive Medicine and Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine.