Combined apoptosis and autophagy, the process that eliminates the oocytes of atretic follicles in immature rats.
We studied the alterations of dying oocytes in 1-28 days old rats using TUNEL method, immunolocalizations of active caspase 3, lamp1, localization of acid phosphatase, and DAPI staining. All procedures were performed in adjacent sections of each oocyte. In most dying oocytes exist simultaneously features of apoptosis as active caspase 3 and DNA breaks, and a large increase of lamp1 and acid phosphatase characteristic of autophagy. Large clumps of compact chromatin and membrane blebbing were absent. Electron microscope observations demonstrated the presence of small clear vesicles and autophagolysosomes. All these features indicate that a large number of oocytes are eliminated by a process sharing features of apoptosis and autophagy. In dying oocytes of new born rats the markers of apoptosis predominate over those of autophagy. However, fragmentation and apoptotic bodies were not found. These features suggest that in different cytophysiological conditions the processes of cell death may be differently modulated.