Ultrastructural analysis of the developing follicle during early vitellogenesis in tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus, with special reference to the steroid-producing cells
Abstract The development and distribution of steroid producing cells (SPCs) in the ovary of tilapia have been studied by light and electron microscopy. At 40–50 d after hatching, these cells are seen only in the vicinity of blood vessels; there are no SPCs in the interstitial region, nor in the thecal layer enclosing young oocytes at the peri-nucleolus stage. By 70–80 d after hatching, the number of SPCs in the area near blood vessels has increased, and the capillaries have spread among the developing peri-nucleolar stage oocytes, and into the ovarian tunica. Clusters of SPCs have also migrated into the interstitial region and into the tunica along with these capillaries. In the ovary 100 d after hatching, some SPCs can be found in the thecal layer enclosing vitellogenic oocytes. Moreover, masses of SPCs can now be observed infiltrating the thecal layer of the oocyte. Serum testosterone (T) and estradiol-17&bgr; (E2) levels at 40–70 d after hatching, are low (T, 0.75–1.10 ng/ml, E2, 0.36–1.08 ng/ml), but at 100 d, plasma E2, but not T, is elevated (T, 1.95 ng/ml, E2, 4.65 ng/ml). These results suggest that SPCs appearing in the vicinity of blood vessels move into the interstitial region between oocytes, and finally enclose the oocytes at an early vitellogenic stage. It is interesting to note that the enclosure of oocytes by SPCs coincides with significant increases in E2 production.
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