The degree of translucency, vascularization of the follicle wall and the integrity of the membrana granulosa, as seen under a stereoscopic microscope, were used to distinguish between non-atretic and atretic isolated follicles. Subsequent histological evaluation showed that both non-atretic and severely atretic follicles could be correctly identified with over 95% accuracy.
The concentrations of steroids were measured in both follicular tissue and fluid. The total steroid content of large (3·1–6·0 mm diameter) non-atretic follicles in vivo (115 pmol/follicle) exceeded that of large atretic follicles (54 pmol) and also that of small (2·0–3·0 mm diameter) non-atretic and atretic follicles (6 pmol). Oestrogen accounted for 80%, testosterone 13% and progesterone 7% of the total steroid content in large non-atretic follicles, whereas testosterone accounted for 75% of the steroid content in the other three categories of follicles. A similar pattern is observed when the concentrations of steroids are expressed on the basis of follicular weight.
Total oestrogen secretion, as measured by the output of steroid into the culture medium in 24 h, was 937 pmol for large non-atretic, 31 pmol for large atretic, 65 pmol for small nonatretic and 4 pmol for small atretic follicles. In terms of steroid production (pmol/mg tissue), the four follicular categories were equally efficient. However, the type of steroid produced depended on the category of follicle and corresponded to its steroid content.