During embryonic development, ovarian somatic cells embark on a course that is separate from male somatic cells and from indifferent precursor cells. While the former aspect of ovarian development is well known, the latter has not received much attention until recently. This review attempts to integrate the most recent work regarding the differentiation of ovarian somatic cells. The discussion of the parallel development of the testis is limited to the key differences only. Similarly, germ cell development will be introduced only inasmuch as it becomes necessary to draw attention to a particular aspect of the somatic component differentiation. Finally, while postnatal ovarian development and folliculogenesis undoubtedly provide the ultimate morphological and functional fitness tests for the ovarian somatic cells, postnatal phenotypes will be only referred to when they have already been connected to genes that are expressed during embryogenesis.
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