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Y. Yoshimura, T. Okamoto and T. Tamura

The aim of this study was to describe the temporal sequence of ultrastructural changes in the boundary between the preovulatory oocyte and its surrounding follicular wall during maturation induced by injection of LH. Female Japanese quail were injected with ovine LH (20 μg per bird) 10–12 h before the expected time of ovulation. The largest and second largest follicles were excised before or 1, 2, 4 or 6 h after injection. The oocyte and the surrounding follicular wall were processed for observations using light and electron microscopy. Before injection of LH, cytoplasmic projections of granulosa cells interdigitated with microvilli on the surface of the oocyte and formed spot desmosomes and gap junctions with the oolemma. Two hours after injection of LH, the germinal vesicles in the largest but not in the second largest follicles began to break down and membrane-bound vesicles increased in number and size in the surrounding germinal disc. The junctions between the oocyte surface and the granulosa cell projections started to dissociate and a perivitelline space began to develop, possibly as the result of an accumulation of fluids transported from the capillary sinus in the theca interna. The first maturation spindle was formed 4 h after injection of LH, whereas the first polar body and the second maturation spindle were formed 6 h after LH stimulation. These observations suggest that the dissociation of connections between the oocyte and granulosa cells 2 h after exposure to increased concentration of LH is the first process of oocyte maturation. The associated increase in number and enlargement of membrane-bound vesicles in the germinal disc may be involved in the activation of factors involved in oocyte maturation.

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Y. Yoshimura, T. Okamoto and T. Tamura

Proliferation of granulosa and thecal cells was analysed during ovarian follicular growth in laying Japanese quail. The birds were injected intraperitoneally with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) 10 or 4 h before ovulation, that is, before or after a preovulatory LH surge, respectively, and incorporation of BrdU by follicular tissues was detected immunocytochemically. Cells labelled with BrdU were seldom seen in the most immature follicles in the ovarian cortex, whereas many granulosa and thecal cells were labelled with BrdU in medium-sized white yolky follicles (approximately 13.3% and 14.4% in granulosa and theca layers, respectively). Ten and four hours before ovulation, the granulosa cells in the germinal disc and non-disc regions of the third largest yellow yolky follicle (F3) were labelled with BrdU (approximately 8.4% and 9.4% in germinal disc; 6.1% and 9.0% in the non-disc region), but only those in the germinal disc region were labelled (approximately 5.4% and 4.0%) in the largest yellow yolky follicle (F1). The percentage of thecal cells labelled with BrdU 4 h before ovulation was significantly higher than the percentage labelled 10 h before ovulation, and was higher in F3 (approximately 11.7%) than in Fl follicles (approximately 5.4%) 4 h before ovulation. These results show that proliferation of granulosa and thecal cells occurs in both germinal disc and non-disc regions in growing follicles, but when a follicle matures proliferation is reduced and in the case of granulosa cells it is restricted to the germinal disc region.

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Y. Yoshimura, T. Okamoto and T. Tamura

This study examined structural changes in oocyte and follicular wall during oocyte maturation in Japanese quails. The structures of the germinal disc and the surrounding follicular wall were observed by light and electron microscopy 25, 6 and 1 h before the expected time of ovulation. The germinal disc of the oocyte was located near the oocyte plasma membrane at 25 h before ovulation, and the germinal vesicle was located in the centre of the germinal disc. Numerous cytoplasmic elements, such as elongated membrane-bound vesicles, mitochondria and glycogen granules were also observed in the germinal disc. The surface of the oocyte made close contact with the cytoplasmic processes of the granulosa cells. Six hours before ovulation, fluid filled spaces formed between the oocyte and follicular wall. At 6 h before ovulation, the germinal disc was similar to that at 25 h before ovulation, whereas the oocyte and the granulosa cells were disconnected. Myelin bodies and dense bodies developed in the cytoplasmic processes of the granulosa cells, suggesting that lysosomal enzymes were activated. In the follicle at 1 h before ovulation, the second maturation spindle was located just beneath the surface of the oocyte, and the first polar body was in the perivitelline space. In the germinal disc, the membrane-bound vesicles were swollen and well developed. We suggest that, during the process of early oocyte maturation, the junctions between the oocyte and granulosa cells are disconnected, and factors that promote oocyte maturation may be activated in the germinal disc since the membrane-bound vesicles are developed.