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General structure - Covered by mostly simple epithelium (variably columnar, cuboidal (germinal), or squamous), under (deeper) which is a loose CT, a nominal capsule - tunica albuginea. A fold of peritoneum, the Mesovarium, connects the ovary at its hilum to the broad ligament, and sends many blood vessels to the fibrous, central, medullary, region of the ovary. Peripheral, cortical, regions have many primordial and primary follicles, maturing Graafian follicles, which shed the ova.

Certain vestigial structures remain after development has ceased. These take the form of blind epithelium-lined rubules - epöophoron and paroöphoron - lying in the broad ligament by the ovary. Hilar stromal cells may include hormone-secreting hilus cells, resembling testicular Leydig cells, which occasionally give rise to tumours causing a hyperandrogenic syndrome in the woman.

Maturation of oocyte: Zona pellucida forms between the oocyte and surrounding follicular cells; both extend proesses into it (Zona pellucida is a glycoprotein membrane contributed by the oocyte and the granulosa cells). The zona pellucida may protect the ovulated and fertilized oocyte from phagocytosis and immune rejection.

Development of follicular/granulosa cells and follicle
  1. Follicular cells are present as a single squamous layer, encircling the dormant oocyte (stage of primordial follicle),
  2. The primary follicle arises by enlargement of the follicular cells - they become cuboidal - and of the oocyte.
  3. Follicular cells proliferate to a multilayered state (secondary/preantral follicle).
  4. Primary oocyte moves to an eccentric position. Fluid forms, separating follicular cells and collecting in antra (spaces). Further cell multiplication, and fluid coalescence, lead to a large follicle, with liquor folliculi filling a single antrum (antral/vesicular/tertiary/Graafian follicle),
  5. In the follicular lining of granulosa cells, a hillock - cumulus oophorus - encloses the oocyte.
  6. The granulosa cells synthesize materials for the oocyte, and also oestrogen, and inhibin to reduce FSH release from the pituitary.
Changes in stroma around maturing follicle:
  1. Stromal fibroblast cells build a capsular theca, which
  2. diffrentiates into:
    1. an inner theca interna: ovoid secretory cells, with lipid droplets; vascular;
    2. an outer theca externa: fusiform fibroblastic cells packed densely,
  3. The growing theca interna secretes androgenic precursors of oestradiol-17b for aromatase-mediated conversion by the granulosa cells,
  4. A glassy basal lamina develops between the theca cells and the membrana granulosa lining the follicle.
  1. A sudden surge in LH, coupled with an increase in FSH and a peaking oestrogen level, triggers ovulation, after the completion of meiosis I by the oocyte.
  2. Graafian/antral follicle, grown huge (15 mm diameter, extends to and protrudes from the ovarian surface,
  3. Protruding apical tissue weakens at the stigma, by apoptosis, and enzymatic action on its matrix, and ruptures, helped by thecal cellular contractions; the fluid flows out.
  4. The fluid takes with it the already floating secondary oocyte* (a first maturation division having; recently occurred), and some attached granulosa cells as a corona radiata.
Corpus luteum: formation, function and fate:
  1. Burst follicle’s wall collapses, becoming folded/plicated.
  2. Lining granulose cells become secretory granulose lutein cills – the main component of the corpus luteum of menstruation (CLM), or of pregnancy (CLP); theca interna cells become secretory theca lutein cells (found as small nests of darker cells at the periphery of the main mass of granulose lutein cells, and accompanying vascular septa into the CLM).
  3. Lutein cells become enlarged, with many lipid droplets (vacuoles, in H&E preparation) and much smooth ER, and secrete the steroid hormone - progesterone,
  4. which is collected in capillaries that grow in from the theca interna.
  5. Progesterone makes the uterine mucosa secretory; and inhibits menstruation and uterine muscle contraction, if implantation occurs.
  6. The centre of the collapsed follicle fills with clotted blood, which is reorganized by ingrowing fibroblasts and capillaries to form a pale, central core of CT.
  7. Late in pregnancy, or late in the menstrual cycle (if the shed oocyte is not fertilized), the glandular lutein cells degenerate; the corpus luteum shrinks, and is replaced by a small pale mass of hyalinized CT - corpus albicans (white to the naked eye in the fresh, unstained ovary).

Paths Traversed By Spermatozoa

Four parts:
  1. infundibulum with the fimbria - a fringe of processes, moved by smooth muscle to catch the oocyte,
  2. wide ampulla (where fertilization occurs), with a cell-ensnaring labyrinth of protruding mucosal processes,
  3. narrow isthmus down to the uterus, and
  4. an intramural/ interstitial section through the uterine wall.
Lined by a highly folded mucosa, comprising a cellular lamina propria covered by columnar ciliated cells and secretory cells, varying in height and secretory activity during the menstrual cycle. Secretion is more in the late oestrogen phase around ovulation than in the post-ovulatory progesterone phase. Cilia beat toward the uterus. Inner circular smooth muscle and a few outer longitudinal bundles. Covered outside by a serosa, with nerves and blood vessels.

Functions - meeting place for sperm and oocyte ; helps ‘capacitation’ of sperm (occurs in isthmus*) to their most energetic and zona pellucida-penetrating state; nourishes and transports the zygote.


Outer serous coat (perimetrium), with vessels, nerves, and ganglia. Myometrium of interwoven smooth muscle, capable of a great hypertrophy during pregnancy, with many blood vessels in the middle stratum vasculare. Mucosa/endometrium with simple, columnar, epithelial lining (some cells ciliated): simple, tubular mucous glands loose vascular stroma of special fibroblasts, reticular fibres and much ground substance; some stromal cells can become decidual around the implantation site helicine/coiled spiral arteries, a capillary bed, and veins.

Mucosa of the sexually mature woman experiences cyclic menstrual changes, involving all elements and considerable changes in mucosal thickness, and driven hormonally by the ovary: Oestrogen, e.g., oestradiol, from the growing follicle cause cell proliferation, and an increase in endometrial height. Progesterone, formed by the corpus luteum (CLPe*-Corpus luteum produces progesterone mainly & some oestrogen, then increases cell secretion and glycogen accumulation, and the stroma dilates with fluid. The glands coil and sacculate. Spiral arteries continue to grow up towards the surface. Helicine arteries rhythmically constrict, and then dilate, inducing menstruation or breakdown of the endometrium, altered in the last few days of the secretory phase by a reduction in progesterone level, and by cytokine signals for cellular apoptosis. This sloughing of the functional layer of the endometrium is unaccompanied by blood clotting.

Regeneration (physiological) takes place from the basal layer of the endometrium, where the epithelium survives at the bottom of the glands. The mucosa may experience these cyclic changes minimally, even though no oocyte was shed from the Graafian follicle - an anovulatory cycle.

Uterine cervix differs from the body as mucosa is furrowed by complex clefts - plicae palmatae; and does not participate in menstruation. Lining columnar epithelial cells produce mucus, richly hydrated and penetrable at mid-cycle. Epithelium changes to stratified squamous on the portio vaginalis. The boundary between simple columnar and stratified squamous epithelia is unstable, and shifts position by a process of columnar-to-squamous conversion. This transformation zone* is prone to dysplasia, then malignant change, which can be detected early by examining ‘Pap’ smears.


Has adventitia of CT, with abundant nerves and blood vessels, merges with some longitudinal and a few circular smooth muscle bundles, around a wide collagenous lamina propria. All these layers loosen in gestation. Epithelium is stratified squamous. Rich in glycogen to promote the growth of benign lactobacilli in the lumen. Mucosa has transverse folds or rugae, and may have lymphoid nodules, but is without glands.

External Genitalia/Vulva

Labia majora and minora, vestibule and hymen - skin, or stratified squamous epithelium on a loose, fatty or vascular lamina propria.

Clitoris and vestibular bulbs - erectile tissue. Sensory receptors are distributed widely in the clitoris, vestibule and labia. Bartholin’s glands - mucus-secreting, compound, tubulo-alveolar - are homologues of the male Cowper’s glands. Duct of Bartholin gland is lined by stratified cuboidal epithelium proximally and gradually assume stratified squamous appearance as it opens on the inner side of labia minora. Other, minor, vestibular, mucous glands lie near the urethra and clitoris.

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