Summary. Immature mice were treated with PMSG and hCG to induce follicular development and ovulation. [3H]Glucosamine was injected at the same time as the PMSG or 2 h before autopsy. The synthesis and distribution of labelled glycoconjugates within the preovulatory follicles was hormonally dependent. PMSG stimulated a rapid uptake of [3H]glucosamine into the zona pellucida and follicular fluid of the largest antral follicles although labelled macromolecules could not be demonstrated in any of the cellular components of these follicles. The injection of hCG stimulated a rapid incorporation of labelled macromolecules into the cellular components of the preovulatory follicle, namely into thecal, granulosa and especially the cumulus cells surrounding the oocyte. The density of labelled macromolecules within the follicular fluid also increased, while the specific and uniform labelling of the zona pellucida which was so characteristic of the period of PMSG stimulation changed. Between 4 and 8 h after the injection of hCG, labelled glycoconjugates containing [3H]glucosamine, became increasingly associated with the outer surface of the zona pellucida and with the region of the egg plasma membrane, even in Graafian follicles not destined to ovulate. The change in distribution of labelled macromolecules on the zona surface may be a prerequisite for successful sperm–zona binding and the specific association of labelled glycoconjugates in the region of the egg plasma membrane may be involved in the preparation of the egg surface for sperm–egg interactions involving cortical granule exocytosis and the block to polyspermy.
Keywords: preovulatory mouse follicles; gonadotrophins; [3H]glucosamine; glycoconjugates; autoradiography