Postovulatory oocyte aging is one of the major causes for human early pregnancy loss and for a decline in the population of some mammalian species. Thus, the mechanisms for oocyte aging are worth exploring. While it is known that ovulated oocytes age within the oviduct and that female stresses impair embryo development by inducing apoptosis of oviductal cells, it is unknown whether the oviduct and/or female stress would affect postovulatory oocyte aging. By comparing aging characteristics, including activation susceptibility, maturation-promoting factor activity, developmental potential, cytoplasmic fragmentation, spindle/chromosome morphology, gene expression, and cumulus cell apoptosis, this study showed that oocytes aged faster in vivo in restraint-stressed mice than in unstressed mice than in vitro. Our further analysis demonstrated that oviductal cells underwent apoptosis with decreased production of growth factors with increasing time after ovulation, and female restraint facilitated apoptosis of oviductal cells. Furthermore, mating prevented apoptosis of oviductal cells and alleviated oocyte aging after ovulation. In conclusion, the results demonstrated that mouse oviducts underwent apoptosis and facilitated oocyte aging after ovulation; female restraint facilitated oocyte aging while enhancing apoptosis of oviductal cells; and copulation ameliorated oviductal apoptosis and oocyte aging.
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