MICROSCAPE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MICROSCAPE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Light microscopy of a growing ovarian follicle at the antral or secondary stage of development. The central oocyte (female germ cell) is surrounded by follicular cells separated from the oocyte cytoplasm by a thin coat of special proteins called the zona pellucida which serves to bind sperm during fertilization, and to protect the early embryo if formed. The ring of follicular cells closest to the oocyte are called cumulus cells and remain with the oocyte after its ovulation. Peripheral layers of flattened cells make up the thecal tissues. The fluid-filled cavity between follicular cells signifies growth of the antrum during folliculogenesis which enlarges to dominate the volume of the follicle as it approaches ovulation. Thecal cells produce androgen-like steroids which is converted to estrogen by follicular cells, essential for follicle growth and maturation. Magnification x180 when printed at 10 cm.
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