RNA granules travel through the cumulus cell network of transzonal projections which is associated with oocyte developmental competence, and RNA packaging involves RNA-binding proteins of the Fragile X protein family.
The determinants of oocyte developmental competence have puzzled scientists for decades. It is known that follicular conditions can nurture the production of a high-quality oocyte, but the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Somatic cumulus cells most proximal to the oocyte are known to have cellular extensions that reach across the zona pellucida and contact with the oocyte plasma membrane. Herein, it was found that transzonal projections (TZPs) network quality is associated with developmental competence. Knowing that ribonucleoparticles are abundant within TZPs, the distribution of RNA-binding proteins was studied. The Fragile X-related proteins (FXR1P and FXR2P) and two partnering protein families, namely cytoplasmic FMRP-interacting protein and nuclear FMRP-interacting protein, exhibited distinctive patterns consistent with roles in regulating mRNA packaging, transport, and translation. The expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP)–FMRP fusion protein in cumulus cells showed active granule formation and their transport and transfer through filipodia connecting with neighboring cells. Near the projections’ ends was found the cytoskeletal anchoring protein Filamin A and active protein synthesis sites. This study highlights key proteins involved in delivering mRNA to the oocyte. Thus, cumulus cells appear to indeed support the development of high-quality oocytes via the transzonal network.