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Enas Mahrous, Qin Yang, and Hugh J Clarke

Oocytes accumulate an enormous quantity of mitochondrial (mt) DNA, and an insufficient amount of mtDNA may underlie some cases of poor oocyte quality leading to infertility. Little is known, however, about the mechanisms that govern the timing and regulation of mtDNA accumulation during oogenesis. We report, through analysis of the mtDNA content of individual oocytes of the mouse, that mtDNA accumulates steadily during oocyte growth to reach a value of ∼175 000 copies per cell. MtDNA content ceases to increase once oocytes reach full size and remains unchanged during meiotic maturation. To test whether mtDNA accumulation depends on oocyte growth, we inhibited growth in vitro in two ways – by exposing complexes comprising partially grown oocytes enclosed by granulosa cells to a chemical inhibitor of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase signaling pathway and by removing the surrounding granulosa cells from partially grown oocytes. Under both conditions, the oocytes fail to grow, but mtDNA accumulation is unaffected, indicating that the two processes can be mechanistically uncoupled. Quantitative analysis of the mRNAs encoding proteins required for mtDNA replication revealed that Polg (Polga) (polymerase-γ, α-subunit), Polg2 (Polgb), and Tfam (transcription factor A, mitochondrial) increase during oocyte growth but then decrease after fully grown oocytes become transcriptionally silent as indicated by the non-surrounded nucleolus-to-surrounded nucleolus transition. Thus, there is a correlation between the decline in the quantity of mRNAs encoding mtDNA replication factors in fully grown oocytes and the arrest of mtDNA accumulation in these cells, suggesting that the two events may be causally linked.

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Yining Li, Yeu-Farn Lin, Xiang Zhou, Hugh J Clarke, and Daniel J Bernard

Ovarian follicle development is regulated by locally produced TGFβ superfamily members. The TGFβ type III receptor (TGFBR3, or betaglycan), which regulates the actions of diverse TGFβ ligands, including inhibins, is expressed in different ovarian cell types. However, its functional roles in the ovary have not been investigated in vivo. Here, we ablated Tgfbr3 in murine oocytes using the Cre-loxP system. Oocyte-specific Tgfbr3 knockout (cKO) females were fertile, producing litters of similar size and frequency as controls. Their ovarian weights and histology were also normal. Though we confirmed efficient recombination of the floxed alleles, we did not detect Tgfbr3 mRNA in purified oocytes from superovulated cKO or control mice. These results challenge earlier observations of betaglycan protein expression in this cell type. Regardless, Tgfbr3 in the murine oocyte is clearly dispensable for female fertility.