Researchers from the National Institutes of Health have identified two proteins that play a vital role in ovulation process.
The discovery, researchers hope, would help in treating infertility resulting from a failure of ovulation. It will also aid in developing new means to prevent pregnancy by preventing the release of the egg.
The proteins, called ERK1 and ERK2, appear to bring about the maturation and release of the egg.
"Ovulation results from a complex interplay of chemical sequences," said Dr Duane Alexander, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
"The researchers have identified a crucial biochemical intermediary controlling the release of the egg.
"The finding advances our understanding and may one day contribute to new treatments for infertility as well as new ways to prevent pregnancy from occurring," Alexander added.
ERK1 and ERK2 are a critical nexus between the surge in luteinizing hormone and ovulation, said Dr Louis V. De Paolo chief of the NICHD Reproductive Sciences Branch.
"This is a key chemical pathway that affects not only ovulation, but egg cell maturation and granulosa cell differentiation into luteal cells," Dr. De Paolo added.
Luteinizing hormone is a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland.
Previously, researchers did not know how luteinizing hormone triggered the ovary's release of the egg and the production of progesterone by the granulosa cells.
In the current study, the researchers discerned that luteinizing hormone appears to signal the release of the ERK 1 and ERK 2 proteins.
"We're still at the tip of the iceberg. We need to understand it all," said De Paolo said.