From primordial germ cells to primordial follicles: A review and visual representation of early ovarian development in mice

Hannah M. Wear, Matthew J. McPike, Karen H. Watanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Normal development of reproductive organs is crucial for successful reproduction. In mice the early ovarian developmental process occurs during the embryonic and postnatal period and is regulated through a series of molecular signaling events. Early ovarian development in mice is a seventeen-day process that begins with the rise of six primordial germ cells on embryonic day five (E5) and ends with the formation of primordial follicles on postnatal day two (P2). Results: We reviewed the current literature and created a visual representation of early ovarian development that depicts the important molecular events and associated phenotypic outcomes based on primary data. The visual representation shows the timeline of key signaling interactions and regulation of protein expression in different cells involved in ovarian development. The major developmental events were divided into five phases: 1) origin of germ cells and maintenance of pluripotency; 2) primordial germ cell migration; 3) sex differentiation; 4) formation of germ cell nests; and 5) germ cell nest breakdown and primordial follicle formation. Conclusions: This review and visual representation provide a summary of the current scientific understanding of the key regulation and signaling during ovarian development and highlights areas needing further study. The visual representation can be used as an educational resource to link molecular events with phenotypic outcomes; serves as a tool to generate new hypotheses and predictions of adverse reproductive outcomes due to perturbations at the molecular and cellular levels; and provides a comprehendible foundation for computational model development and hypothesis testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalJournal of Ovarian Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 21 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Conceptual model
  • Early ovarian development
  • Molecular signaling
  • Mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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