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In females, FSH stimulates development of egg cells, called ova, which develop in structures called follicles. Follicle cells produce the hormone inhibin, which inhibits FSH production. LH also plays a role in the development of ova, induction of ovulation, and stimulation of estradiol and progesterone production by the ovaries. Estradiol and progesterone are steroid hormones that prepare the body for pregnancy. Estradiol produces secondary sex characteristics in females, while both estradiol and progesterone regulate the menstrual cycle.

The ovarian cycle and the menstrual cycle

The ovarian cycle    governs the preparation of endocrine tissues and release of eggs, while the menstrual cycle    governs the preparation and maintenance of the uterine lining. These cycles occur concurrently and are coordinated over a 22–32 day cycle, with an average length of 28 days.

The first half of the ovarian cycle is the follicular phase shown in [link] . Slowly rising levels of FSH and LH cause the growth of follicles on the surface of the ovary. This process prepares the egg for ovulation. As the follicles grow, they begin releasing estrogens and a low level of progesterone. Progesterone maintains the endometrium to help ensure pregnancy. The trip through the fallopian tube takes about seven days. At this stage of development, called the morula, there are 30-60 cells. If pregnancy implantation does not occur, the lining is sloughed off. After about five days, estrogen levels rise and the menstrual cycle enters the proliferative phase. The endometrium begins to regrow, replacing the blood vessels and glands that deteriorated during the end of the last cycle.

Art connection

Hormone levels during the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase are compared. During the follicular phase, LH and FSH secreted from the pituitary stimulate several follicles to grow. The follicles produce low levels of estradiol that inhibit GnRH secretion by the hypothalamus, keeping LH and FSH levels low. Low levels of estradiol also cause the endometrial arteries to constrict, resulting in menstruation. During the time leading up to ovulation, LH and FSH stimulate maturation of one of the follicles. The growing follicle begins to produce high levels of estradiol, which stimulates GnRH secretion by the hypothalamus. As a result, LH and FSH levels rise, resulting in ovulation about a day later. Estradiol also causes the endometrium to thicken. After ovulation, the ovarian cycle enters the luteal phase. LH from the pituitary stimulates growth of the corpus luteum from the ruptured follicle. The corpus luteum secretes estradiol and progesterone that block GnRH production by the hypothalamus and LH and FSH production by the pituitary. Estradiol and progesterone also cause the endometrium to further develop.
The ovarian and menstrual cycles of female reproduction are regulated by hormones produced by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries.

Which of the following statements about hormone regulation of the female reproductive cycle is false?

  1. LH and FSH are produced in the pituitary, and estradiol and progesterone are produced in the ovaries.
  2. Estradiol and progesterone secreted from the corpus luteum cause the endometrium to thicken.
  3. Both progesterone and estradiol are produced by the follicles.
  4. Secretion of GnRH by the hypothalamus is inhibited by low levels of estradiol but stimulated by high levels of estradiol.

Just prior to the middle of the cycle (approximately day 14), the high level of estrogen causes FSH and especially LH to rise rapidly, then fall. The spike in LH causes ovulation    : the most mature follicle, like that shown in [link] , ruptures and releases its egg. The follicles that did not rupture degenerate and their eggs are lost. The level of estrogen decreases when the extra follicles degenerate.

 Micrograph shows a spherical egg growing on the surface of a tissue.
This mature egg follicle may rupture and release an egg. (credit: scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

Following ovulation, the ovarian cycle enters its luteal phase, illustrated in [link] and the menstrual cycle enters its secretory phase, both of which run from about day 15 to 28. The luteal and secretory phases refer to changes in the ruptured follicle. The cells in the follicle undergo physical changes and produce a structure called a corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone facilitates the regrowth of the uterine lining and inhibits the release of further FSH and LH. The uterus is being prepared to accept a fertilized egg, should it occur during this cycle. The inhibition of FSH and LH prevents any further eggs and follicles from developing, while the progesterone is elevated. The level of estrogen produced by the corpus luteum increases to a steady level for the next few days.

Questions & Answers

Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
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Crow Reply
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I think
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Stoney Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, University of georgia biology. OpenStax CNX. Dec 09, 2013 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11585/1.6
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