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Yun-Kao Cao, Zhi-Sheng Zhong, Da-Yuan Chen, Gui-Xue Zhang, Heide Schatten and Qing-Yuan Sun

The small GTPase Ran controls numerous cellular processes of the mitotic cell cycle. In this experiment, we investigated the localization and possible roles of Ran during mouse oocyte meiotic maturation, fertilization and early cleavage by using confocal laser scanning microscopy, antibody microinjection and microtubule disturbance. The results showed that Ran was localized mainly in the nucleus (except for the nucleolus) in the oocyte, zygote and early embryo. At pro-metaphase of meiosis I, Ran distributed throughout the cell, but predominantly concentrated around the condensed chromosomes. During the completion of meiosis I and meiosis II, it concentrated to the meiotic spindle microtubules except for the midbody region. After sperm penetration, Ran dispersed with the extrusion of the second polar body and gradually concentrated in the male and female pronuclei thereafter. Ran was also observed to exist diffusely in the cytoplasm in prophase; it concentrated at the mitotic spindle, and migrated to the nucleus during early cleavage. Ran’s concentration around the spindle disappeared when microtubule assembly was inhibited by colchicine, while it was concentrated around the chromosomes after microtubule stabilization with taxol treatment. Ran did not display any role in cytokinesis during division when pseudo-cleavage of germinal vesicle-intact oocytes was induced. Anti-Ran antibody microinjection decreased the germinal vesicle breakdown and the first polar body extrusion, and distorted spindle organization and chromosome alignment. Our results indicate that Ran has a cell cycle-dependent localization and may have regulatory roles in cell cycle progression and microtubule organization in mouse oocytes, fertilized eggs and early embryos.

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M. Djalali, B. Rosenbusch, M. Wolf and K. Sterzik

Summary. During an in-vitro fertilization programme 150 oocytes from 62 women with a mean age of 31 years (range 24–39) remained unfertilized. Successful chromosome analysis was carried out on 96 oocytes by Q-banding: 59 (61·5%) oocytes bore a normal haploid complement, 8 (8·3%) were diploid and 3 (3·1%) tetraploid. In 26 (27·1%) oocytes aneuploidy was observed; these included 9 (9·4%) nullisomic, 5 (5·2%) double nullisomic, 4 (4·2%) triple nullisomic and 2 (2·1%) disomic oocytes. The remaining 54 (36·0%) oocytes could not be evaluated. A nearly uniform rate of aneuploidy was found for unfertilized oocytes among different donor age groups.

Keywords: chromosome study; human oocyte; in-vitro fertilization; aneuploidy

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Xihe Li, Y Qin, Sandra Wilsher and W R Allen

Various types of cell cycle organization occur in mammals. In this study, centrosome changes during meiosis in horse oocytes, and first cell cycle organization following fertilization, parthenogenesis and nuclear transfer, were monitored. Cumulus oocyte complexes harvested from horse ovaries obtained from slaughtered mares were cultured in vitro. Meiotic oocytes of germinal vesicle (GV), germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), metaphase I and II (MI and MII) stages were selected at various set times during in vitro maturation. Embryos at the first cell cycle stage were generated by subjecting MII stage oocytes to fertilization by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), parthenogenetic treatment or nuclear transfer. Centrosome changes during meiosis and the first cell cycle organization were detected by indirect immunofluorescent staining, using a mouse anti-α-tubulin antibody for microtubules and a rabbit anti-γ-tubulin antibody for centrosomes. These examinations showed that the centrosomes of the horse oocyte reorganize themselves from the beginning of GV stage to leave only PCM of γ-tubulin surrounding both poles of the MI and MII stage spindles. These MII oocytes can organize the separation of metaphase chromosomes during the first embryonic cell cycle by parthenogenetic treatment. When the MII oocytes were subjected to ICSI or nuclear transfer, one or two red-stained centrosomes of γ-tubulin were introduced by the fertilising spermatozoon or the donor cell which associated with the sperm chromatin in the fertilized embryos and with the donor cell chromatin and microtubules in the cloned embryos. This finding suggests that centrosomes are not an essential component in the formation of the metaphase spindle during meiotic maturation of horse oocytes, but they can be introduced from the spermatozoon or donor cell and are necessary for the organization of normal embryonic development.

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I. Maudlin and Lynn R. Fraser

Summary. Eggs obtained from young virgin and aged parous female mice were fertilized in vitro to compare the incidence of aneuploidy in the resulting first-cleavage embryos. There was a significantly higher incidence of aneuploidy in the aged group (7·5% versus 3·3% and this was due solely to a higher proportion of trisomic female chromosome complements; there was no difference in the incidence of monosomics. These results thus suggest that non-disjunction occurs more frequently in eggs from older females, leading to the production of aneuploid embryos.

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Zhen-Yu Zheng, Qing-Zhang Li, Da-Yuan Chen, Heide Schatten and Qing-Yuan Sun

The protein kinase Cs (PKCs) are a family of Ser/Thr protein kinases categorized into three subfamilies: classical, novel, and atypical. The phosphorylation of PKC in germ cells is not well defined. In this study, we described the subcellular localization of phopho-PKC in the process of mouse oocyte maturation, fertilization, and early embryonic mitosis. Confocal microscopy revealed that phospho-PKC (pan) was distributed abundantly in the nucleus at the germinal vesicle stage. After germinal vesicle breakdown, phospho-PKC was localized in the vicinity of the condensed chromosomes, distributed in the whole meiotic spindle, and concentrated at the spindle poles. After metaphase I, phospho-PKC was translocated gradually to the spindle mid-zone during emission of the first polar body. After sperm penetration and electrical activation, the distribution of phospho-PKC was moved from the spindle poles to the spindle mid-zone. After the extrusion of the second polar body (PB2) phospho-PKC was localized in the area between the oocyte and the PB2. In fertilized eggs, phospho-PKC was concentrated in the pronuclei except for the nucleolus. Phospho-PKC was dispersed after pronuclear envelope breakdown, but distributed on the entire spindle at mitotic metaphase. The results suggest that PKC activation may play important roles in regulating spindle organization and stabilization, polar-body extrusion, and nuclear activity during mouse oocyte meiosis, fertilization, and early embryonic mitosis.

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A Talmor-Cohen, R Tomashov-Matar, W B Tsai, W H Kinsey and R Shalgi

Prior to fertilization, the spindle of vertebrate eggs must remain stable and well organized during the second meiotic meta-phase arrest (MII). In a previous study we have determined that the completion of meiosis is a Src family kinase (SFK)-dependent event. In the current study we have used the SFK inhibitors, SU6656 and PP2, and demonstrated that inhibition of SFKs caused the formation of a disorganized spindle. The observation that proper organization of an MII spindle is an SFK-dependent process, combined with our previous finding that Fyn kinase is localized at the microtubules (MTs), prompted us to examine the potential role of Fyn in MT signaling. Our results show an association between Fyn and tubulin, the ability of Fyn to phosphorylate tubulin in vitro and stimulation of meiosis completion by injection of a constitutively active form of Fyn (CAF).

We suggested that SFKs mediate significant functions during the organization of the MII spindle. In view of CAF injection experiments, and of the pronounced concentration of Fyn kinase at the spindle, we propose that Fyn may play an important role in some aspects of the spindle functions, possibly those involving the MTs.

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R. H. Martin, M. M. Mahadevan, P. J. Taylor, K. Hildebrand, L. Long-Simpson, D. Peterson, J. Yamamoto and J. Fleetham

Summary. Unfertilized human oocytes were obtained from women in an in-vitro fertilization programme. The women had a mean age of 29·4 years (range 24–35 years). Chromosomal complements could be analysed in 50 oocytes. Q-banding of the chromosomes facilitated identification of individual chromosomes: 34 oocytes (68%) had the normal haploid chromosomal complement, 14 complements were hypohaploid (28%), 1 complement was hyperhaploid (2%) and 2 had structural abnormalities (4%). (One oocyte had numerical and structural abnormalities.) The 16 abnormal oocytes were obtained from 15 different women. A conservative estimate of aneuploidy in this sample is 4%; however, the frequency of aneuploidy may be higher if there is a predisposition to chromosome loss during oogenesis. This study provides information on the largest series of karyotyped unfertilized human oocytes published to date.

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Z Roth and P J Hansen

Meiotic maturation in mammalian oocytes is a complex process which involves extensive rearrangement of microtubules, actin filaments and chromosomes. Since cytoskeletal elements are sensitive to disruption by heat shock, a series of experiments were performed to determine whether physiologically relevant heat shock disrupts the progression of the oocyte through meiosis, fertilization and zygote formation. Cumulus–oocyte complexes were cultured at 38.5, 40.0 or 41.0 °C for the first 12 h of maturation. Incubation during the last 10 h of maturation and 18 h after fertilization was at 38.5 °C and in 5% (v/v) CO2 for both treatments. Examination of the cytoskeleton and the chromosome organization in matured oocytes revealed that oocytes matured at 38.5°C were mostly at metaphase II (MII) stage, while the majority of heat-shocked oocytes were blocked at the first metaphase (MI), first anaphase or first telophase stages. A subset of heat-shocked oocytes possessed misshapen MI spindles with disorganized microtubules and unaligned chromosomes. A higher percentage of TUNEL-positive oocytes was noted for oocytes matured at 41.0 °C. Addition of 50 nmol/l sphingosine 1-phosphate to maturation medium blocked the effect of heat shock on progression through meiosis and apoptosis and increased the proportion of oocytes matured at 41.0 °C that were at MII. Following insemination, a high percentage of heat-shocked oocytes were unfertilized, while the majority of the control zygotes were fertilized and had two visible pronuclei. In conclusion, heat shock disrupts nuclear maturation and induces apoptosis. These alterations are likely to be involved in the mechanism underlying heat-shock-induced disruption of oocyte capacity for fertilization and subsequent development.

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Jurriaan J Hölzenspies, Bernard A J Roelen, Ben Colenbrander, Roland A P Romijn, Wieger Hemrika, Willem Stoorvogel and Theo van Haeften

In the mammalian ovary, oocytes are arrested at prophase of meiosis I until a hormonal stimulus triggers resumption of meiosis. During the subsequent meiotic maturation process, which includes completion of the first meiotic division and formation of the second metaphase spindle, oocytes acquire competence for fertilization. Recently, it was shown that clathrin, a cytosolic protein complex originally defined for its role in intracellular membrane traffic, is also involved in the stabilization of kinetochore fibers in mitotic spindles of dividing somatic cells. However, whether clathrin has a similar function in meiotic spindles in oocytes has not been investigated previously. Our results show that endogenous clathrin associates with the meiotic spindles in oocytes. To study the function of clathrin during meiotic maturation, we microinjected green fluorescent protein-tagged C-terminal and N-terminal dominant-negative clathrin protein constructs into isolated porcine oocytes prior to in vitro maturation. Both protein constructs associated with meiotic spindles similar to endogenous clathrin, but induced misalignment and clumping of chromosomes, occurrence of cytoplasmic chromatin and failure of polar body extrusion. These data demonstrate that clathrin plays a crucial role in meiotic spindle function in maturing oocytes, possibly through spindle stabilization.

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Irit Ben-Aharon, Karin Haim, Ruth Shalgi and Dalit Ben-Yosef

At fertilization in mammals, the spermatozoon triggers a unique signal transduction mechanism within the egg, leading to its activation. It is well accepted that the earliest event observed in all activated eggs is an abrupt rise in intracellular calcium concentrations. However, little is known regarding the downstream proteins that are activated by this rise in calcium. Calpains constitute a family of intracellular calcium-dependent cysteine proteases whose members are expressed widely in a variety of cells. We investigated the expression and possible role of the calpain isoforms μ and m throughout egg activation. Both calpains were expressed in the rat egg and localized at the egg cortex as well as in the meiotic spindle. m Calpain translocated to the membrane and to the spindle area during parthenogenetic egg activation and during in vivo fertilization, upon sperm binding to the egg. The cytoskeletal protein α-spectrin (fodrin) was proteolysed by calpain during the egg-activation process, as demonstrated by specific calpain-breakdown products. Following parthenogenetic activation by ionomycin or puromycin, the calpain-selective permeable inhibitor, calpeptin, inhibited the resumption of meiosis and cortical reaction in a dosedependent manner. Calpeptin was also effective in inhibiting in vitro fertilization. These results may imply a correlation between calpain activation and mammalian egg activation at fertilization and a possible role for calpain in the cascade of cellular events leading to resumption of meiosis.