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Corpus luteum
Section of the ovary. 1. Outer covering. 1’. Attached border. 2. Central stroma. 3. Peripheral stroma. 4. Bloodvessels. 5. Vesicular follicles in their earliest stage. 6, 7, 8. More advanced follicles. 9. An almost mature follicle. 9’. Follicle from which the ovum has escaped. 10. Corpus luteum.
Gray's subject #266 1256

The corpus luteum (Latin for "yellow body") (plural corpora lutea) is a temporary endocrine structure in mammals, involved in production of progestogen, which is needed to maintain the endometrium.


Development and structure

The corpus luteum develops from an ovarian follicle during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle or estrous cycle, following the release of a secondary oocyte from the follicle during ovulation. The follicle first forms a corpus hemorrhagicum before it becomes a corpus luteum, but the term simply refers to the visible collection of blood left after rupture of the follicle and has no functional significance. While the oocyte (later the zygote) traverses the Fallopian tube into the uterus, the corpus luteum remains in the ovary.

The corpus luteum is typically very large relative to the size of the ovary; in humans, the size of the structure ranges from under 2 cm to 5 cm in diameter. [1][2]

Its cells develop from the follicular cells surrounding the ovarian follicle.[3 ]

Follicular structure Luteal structure Secretion
Theca cells Theca lutein cells Estrogen[3 ][4], androgens[4] and progesterone[4]
Granulosa cells Granulosa lutein cells Progesterone[3 ]

The previous theca cells lacked the aromatase enzyme that is necessary to produce estrogen,[5 ] so the production of estrogen in theca lutein cells indicate presence of aromatase.


The corpus luteum is essential for establishing and maintaining pregnancy in females.

In the ovary, the corpus luteum secretes estrogens and progesterone, which are steroid hormones responsible for the thickening of the endometrium and its development and maintenance, respectively.

The corpus luteum secretes estrogen and progesterone that inhibit Luteinizing hormone and Follicle-stimulating hormone.

When egg is not fertilized

If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum stops secreting progesterone and decays (after approximately 14 days in humans). It then degenerates into a corpus albicans, which is a mass of fibrous scar tissue.

The uterine lining sloughs off without progesterone and is expelled through the vagina (in humans and some great apes, which go through a menstrual cycle). In an estrus cycle, the lining degenerates back to normal size.

When egg is fertilized

If the egg is fertilized and implantation occurs, the trophoblast cells of the blastocyst secrete the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG, or a similar hormone in other species).

Human chorionic gonadotropin signals the corpus luteum to continue progesterone secretion, thereby maintaining the thick lining (endometrium) of the uterus and providing an area rich in blood vessels in which the zygote(s) can develop. From this point on, the corpus luteum is called the corpus luteum graviditatis.

The introduction of prostaglandins at this point causes the degeneration of the corpus luteum and the abortion of the fetus. However, in placental animals such as humans, the placenta eventually takes over progesterone production and the corpus luteum degrades into a corpus albicans without embryo/fetus loss.

Additional images

External links


  1. ^ "Corpus Luteum Cyst of Pregnancy".,1510,5335,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-26.  
  2. ^ Vegetti W, Alagna F (2006). "FSH and follucogenesis: from physiology to ovarian stimulation". Reproductive biomedicine Online. Retrieved 2009-05-26.  
  3. ^ a b c Page 1159 in: Boron WF, Boulpaep EL (2004). Medical Physiology: A Cellular And Molecular Approaoch. Elsevier/Saunders. pp. 1300. ISBN 1-4160-2328-3.  
  4. ^ a b c The IUPS Physiome Project --> Female Reproductive System - Cells Retrieved on Nov 9, 2009
  5. ^ Page 1155 in: Boron WF, Boulpaep EL (2004). Medical Physiology: A Cellular And Molecular Approaoch. Elsevier/Saunders. pp. 1300. ISBN 1-4160-2328-3.  

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