This chapter discusses the involvement of the ovarian innervation and neurotrophic factors in the control of follicular development and ovulation, and provides a succinct account of relevant aspects of early follicular development, the distribution of ovarian nerves, and some of the important features that define the neurotrophins (NTs) family and its receptors. The mammalian ovary is a prominent terminal field for sympathetic and sensory neurons. The neurons projecting to the ovary innervate the different structural components of the gland, including the vasculature, interstitial tissue, and developing follicles, with various degrees of complexity. Before the 1990s, several reports appeared documenting the distribution of intraovarian nerve fibers, their presence in different species, and their neurotransmitter identity. During the early 1990s, the availability of simplified culture procedures and new biochemical and molecular techniques provided insights into the specific contribution that ovarian nerves may have to the regulation of ovarian function. Thus, a number of reports appeared indicating an involvement of neurotransmitters contained in ovarian nerves, such as norepinephrine (NE) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), in the control of follicular steroidogenesis and suggesting the facilitatory participation of the sympathetic innervation in follicular development.
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