Follicle Selection in the Avian Ovary


Author’s address (for correspondence): Patricia A. Johnson, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. E-mail:


Follicle development in the highly efficient laying hen is characterized by a well-organized follicular hierarchy. This is not the case in other chickens such as the broiler breeder hen that has excessive follicle development and lower reproductive efficiency. Although management practices can optimize egg production in less productive breeds of chickens, the factors that contribute to this difference are not known. Interactions between the oocyte and surrounding somatic cells are believed to be involved in promoting follicle selection. Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) has been shown to have a role in regulating rate of follicle development in mammals. In hens, the expression of AMH is restricted to the growing population of follicles and, similar to mammals, is markedly decreased at around the time of follicle selection. The oocyte factors, growth and differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) and bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15), have been identified in the hen, and their expression pattern has been characterized. Anti-Müllerian hormone expression in hens is decreased by a protein factor from the oocyte (not GDF9) and is also decreased by vitamin D. Associated with the decrease in AMH expression by vitamin D, follicle-stimulating hormone receptor mRNA is increased. These data suggest that information about AMH regulation may enhance our understanding of follicle selection, particularly in birds with aberrant follicle development.