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Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):449-457. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18836


The role of germ cell loss during primordial follicle assembly: a review of current advances

Yuan-Chao Sun1, Xiao-Feng Sun2, Paul W. Dyce3, Wei Shen2✉, Hong Chen1✉

1. College of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University, Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology for Agriculture, Yangling Shaanxi 712100, China;
2. Institute of Reproductive Sciences, College of Animal Science and Technology, Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao 266109, China;
3. Department of Animal Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA


In most female mammals, early germline development begins with the appearance of primordial germ cells (PGCs), and develops to form mature oocytes following several vital processes. It remains well accepted that significant germ cell apoptosis and oocyte loss takes place around the time of birth. The transition of the ovarian environment from fetal to neonatal, coincides with the loss of germ cells and the timing of follicle formation. All told it is common to lose approximately two thirds of germ cells during this transition period. The current consensus is that germ cell loss can be attributed, at least in part, to programmed cell death (PCD). Recently, autophagy has been implicated as playing a part in germ cell loss during the time of parturition. In this review, we discuss the major opinions and mechanisms of mammalian ovarian PCD during the process of germ cell loss. We also pay close attention to the function of autophagy in germ cell loss, and speculate that autophagy may also serve as a critical and necessary process during the establishment of primordial follicle pool.

Keywords: Germ cell loss, Germ cell cyst, Apoptosis, Autophagy, Primordial follicle assembly

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
Sun YC, Sun XF, Dyce PW, Shen W, Chen H. The role of germ cell loss during primordial follicle assembly: a review of current advances. Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):449-457. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18836. Available from