Follicular development beyond the antral stage depends on two gonadotropic hormones secreted by the anterior pituitary gland: FSH and LH. In addition to follicular growth, gonadotropins are required for ovulation, luteinization, and steroid hormone formation by both the follicle and the corpus luteum. The relevant molecular and biochemical characteristics of these glyco-protein hormones are described in Chapters 38 and 45. Follicular growth and function also depend on paracrine effects of estrogens, androgens, and possibly progesterone, as well as peptide paracrine factors, including IGF-II, activin, members of the transforming growth factor-p family, and others. The sequence of rapid follicular growth, ovulation, and the subsequent formation and degeneration of the corpus luteum is repeated about every 28 days and constitutes the ovarian cycle. The part of the cycle devoted to the final rapid growth of the ovulatory follicle lasts about 14 days and is called the follicular phase. The remainder of the cycle is dominated
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