Whole Ovary Immunofluorescence, Clearing, and Multiphoton Microscopy for Quantitative 3D Analysis of the Developing Ovarian Reserve in Mouse.

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Publication Date


Publication Title

J Vis Exp

JAX Source

J Vis Exp 2021 Sep 3; (175):e62972










HD093778, HD0070065


Female fertility and reproductive lifespan depend on the quality and quantity of the ovarian oocyte reserve. An estimated 80% of female germ cells entering meiotic prophase I are eliminated during Fetal Oocyte Attrition (FOA) and the first week of postnatal life. Three major mechanisms regulate the number of oocytes that survive during development and establish the ovarian reserve in females entering puberty. In the first wave of oocyte loss, 30-50% of the oocytes are eliminated during early FOA, a phenomenon that is attributed to high Long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) expression. The second wave of oocyte loss is the elimination of oocytes with meiotic defects by a meiotic quality checkpoint. The third wave of oocyte loss occurs perinatally during primordial follicle formation when some oocytes fail to form follicles. It remains unclear what regulates each of these three waves of oocyte loss and how they shape the ovarian reserve in either mice or humans. Immunofluorescence and 3D visualization have opened a new avenue to image and analyze oocyte development in the context of the whole ovary rather than in less informative 2D sections. This article provides a comprehensive protocol for whole ovary immunostaining and optical clearing, yielding preparations for imaging using multiphoton microscopy and 3D modeling using commercially available software. It shows how this method can be used to show the dynamics of oocyte attrition during ovarian development in C57BL/6J mice and quantify oocyte loss during the three waves of oocyte elimination. This protocol can be applied to prenatal and early postnatal ovaries for oocyte visualization and quantification, as well as other quantitative approaches. Importantly, the protocol was strategically developed to accommodate high-throughput, reliable, and repeatable processing that can meet the needs in toxicology, clinical diagnostics, and genomic assays of ovarian function.


We thank Mary Ann Handel for critical reading of the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Sonia Erattupuzha and the Microscopy Core Service at The Jackson Laboratory for expert assistance with the microscopy work described in this publication and Jarek Trapszo from the Scientific Instrument Services at The Jackson Laboratory for designing the 3D-printed adaptor slide.