Nutritional Influences on Folliculogenesis


Author’s address (for correspondence): R Webb, Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K. E-mail:


Folliculogenesis is an intricate process that involves the proliferation and differentiation of both somatic and germ cells. This process depends on complex interactions between systemic factors such as both pituitary gonadotrophins and metabolic hormones and/or local factors produced by the ovarian somatic and germ cells, such as the IGF system and TGF-β superfamily members. In domestic ruminants, follicular development begins during foetal life with formation of primordial follicles from the association of germ cells and pre-granulosa cells. After follicular formation, folliculogenesis begins with a primordial follicle progressing into more developed stages (i.e. primary, secondary, pre-antral and antral) in a continuous, progressive process to either ovulation or, as in most cases, to atresia. Even early stages of follicular formation and subsequent development are influenced by both internal (e.g. genotype) and/or external environmental (e.g. nutrition and season) factors. Among these external factors, nutrition is one of the most important affecting reproductive function, and this is the focus of this review, because other reviews in this issue discuss other environmental factors. A number of studies have now shown that nutrition can have both positive and negative effects on follicular growth, oestrous activity, oocyte quality, blastocyst development and pregnancy outcome. Therefore, understanding the intricate processes involved during folliculogenesis and the ways in which factors, such as nutrition, affect them is leading to new opportunities to improve pregnancy rates by influencing follicle development and oocyte quality. This review will focus on follicular development from foetal to adult stages and the influences that nutrition has during some of these developmental stages.