Histology by Charlotte L. Ownby, PhD.  Links to beginning of Histology web site.

Link to beginning of Female Reproductive System web site.

Primary Follicle in Ovary (link to Histology Home Page)

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Diagram of Female Reproductive System


Return to Overview Link to Ovaries Link to Oviducts (uterine tubes) Link to Interaction during estrous cycle Link to Vagina Link to Review MaterialsProceed to Oogenesis
The Ovaries  

Function The ovary, or female gonad, is:

  1. an exocrine gland, producing ova
  2. an endocrine gland, secreting
    1. the female hormones estrogen and progesterone
    2. androgens, typically considered male hormones


(As you read, POINT the cursor to the blue highlighted text. 
The image changes as you point to the highlighted text. 
here to position the window so that you can see the image below.
The surface of the ovary is covered withsurface epithelium, a simple epithelium which changes from squamous to cuboidal with age. Immediately beneath this surface epithelium there is a dense connective tissue sheath, the tunica albuginea ovarii In most species, the ovaries are composed of an outercortex and innermedulla (except in the mare where the cortical region is interior to the medulla).  The cortex is composed of ovarian follicles (developing oocytes with their associated follicular cells), interstitial gland cells and stromal elements.  Ovarian follicles are in different stages of development (least mature to most mature): primordial, primary, secondary, secondary-vesicular and mature. 
Click on the  labels on the diagram to display histological sections. 

No slide for Hilus.

click to view cortex histology images click to view primary follicle histology images click to view primordial follicles histology images click to view medulla histology images click to view tunica albuginea histology images click to view secondary follicle histology images click to view surface epithelium histology images click to view secondary follicles histology images
Thecortex usually also contains the remains of degenerated follicles called atretic follicles (not shown in this diagram) which may arise at any stage of follicular development. 

Interstitial gland cells (not shown in this diagram) are also present in the cortex. Although the function of these cells is not known for sure, they are thought to secrete estrogen since they have the structure of steroid-secreting cells.

The atretic follicles and the interstitial gland cells, though not shown on this diagram, will be discussed later.

Themedulla   is composed of loose areolar connective tissue containing numerous elastic and reticular fibers, large blood vessels, nerves and lymphatics. 

Thehilus is the region through which blood vessels, lymphatics and nerves enter and leave the ovary.  It is contiguous with and histologically similar to the medulla. 

Quick Checks:
1.  The function of the ovary is to secrete:
ova and female hormones
female hormones only
ova only

2. The cortex of the ovary is composed of :
the medulla and the hilus
loose areolar connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves and lymphatics
ovarian follicles, interstitial cells and stromal elements

3.  These types of follicles may arise at any stage in the development of follicles and represent a dead or degenerating follicle:
vesicular follicle
atretic follicle
luteal follicle

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This page was last updated 10/19/07 09:53:56 AM