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1.  Unlaid Xenopus eggs degrade by apoptosis in the genital tract 
BMC Cell Biology  2013;14:11.
In several species with external fertilization, including frogs, laid unfertilized eggs were found to die by apoptosis outside of the animal body. However, there is no apparent reason for the externally laid eggs to degrade by this process, considering that apoptosis developed as a mechanism to reduce the damaging effect of individual cell death to the whole organism.
Here, we demonstrate that a number of eggs are retained in the genital tract of the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis after gonadotropin-induced ovulation. The majority of these eggs exit meiotic arrest within 24 hours of hormone administration. Subsequently, post-meiotic eggs die in the frog genital tract by a well-defined apoptotic process. The hallmarks of egg degradation include prominent morphological changes, cytochrome c release, caspase activation, increase in ADP/ATP ratio, progressive intracellular acidification, egg swelling and all-out proteolysis of egg proteins. The sustained presence of post-apoptotic eggs in the genital tract of ageing frogs evidenced age-associated worsening of apoptotic clearance.
The direct observation of egg degradation in the Xenopus genital tract provides a clue to the physiological relevance of frog egg apoptosis. It works to eliminate the mature unlaid eggs retained in the animal body after ovulation. Our findings establish egg apoptosis as a major physiological process accompanying ovulation in frogs.
PMCID: PMC3599861  PMID: 23452868
Apoptosis; Unlaid eggs; Maturation; Ovulation; Meiotic exit; Xenopus laevis; Genital tract
2.  How eggs arrest at metaphase II: MPF stabilisation plus APC/C inhibition equals Cytostatic Factor 
Cell Division  2007;2:4.
Oocytes from higher chordates, including man and nearly all mammals, arrest at metaphase of the second meiotic division before fertilization. This arrest is due to an activity that has been termed 'Cytostatic Factor'. Cytostatic Factor maintains arrest through preventing loss in Maturation-Promoting Factor (MPF; CDK1/cyclin B). Physiologically, Cytostatic Factor – induced metaphase arrest is only broken by a Ca2+ rise initiated by the fertilizing sperm and results in degradation of cyclin B, the regulatory subunit of MPF through the Anaphase-Promoting Complex/Cyclosome (APC/C). Arrest at metaphase II may therefore be viewed as being maintained by inhibition of the APC/C, and Cytostatic Factor as being one or more pathways, one of which inhibits the APC/C, consorting in the preservation of MPF activity.
Many studies over several years have implicated the c-Mos/MEK/MAPK pathway in the metaphase arrest of the two most widely studied vertebrates, frog and mouse. Murine downstream components of this cascade are not known but in frog involve members of the spindle assembly checkpoint, which act to inhibit the APC/C. Interesting these downstream components appear not to be involved in the arrest of mouse eggs, suggesting a lack of conservation with respect to c-Mos targets. However, the recent discovery of Emi2 as an egg specific APC/C inhibitor whose degradation is Ca2+ dependent has greatly increased our understanding of MetII arrest. Emi2 is involved in both the establishment and maintenance of metaphase II arrest in frog and mouse suggesting a conservation of metaphase II arrest. Its identity as the physiologically relevant APC/C inhibitor involved in Cytostatic Factor arrest prompted us to re-evaluate the role of the c-Mos pathway in metaphase II arrest.
This review presents a model of Cytostatic Factor arrest, which is primarily induced by Emi2 mediated APC/C inhibition but which also requires the c-Mos pathway to set MPF levels within physiological limits, not too high to induce an arrest that cannot be broken, or too low to induce parthenogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1794241  PMID: 17257429
3.  Unfertilized Xenopus Eggs Die by Bad-Dependent Apoptosis under the Control of Cdk1 and JNK 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23672.
Ovulated eggs possess maternal apoptotic execution machinery that is inhibited for a limited time. The fertilized eggs switch off this time bomb whereas aged unfertilized eggs and parthenogenetically activated eggs fail to stop the timer and die. To investigate the nature of the molecular clock that triggers the egg decision of committing suicide, we introduce here Xenopus eggs as an in vivo system for studying the death of unfertilized eggs. We report that after ovulation, a number of eggs remains in the female body where they die by apoptosis. Similarly, ovulated unfertilized eggs recovered in the external medium die within 72 h. We showed that the death process depends on both cytochrome c release and caspase activation. The apoptotic machinery is turned on during meiotic maturation, before fertilization. The death pathway is independent of ERK but relies on activating Bad phosphorylation through the control of both kinases Cdk1 and JNK. In conclusion, the default fate of an unfertilized Xenopus egg is to die by a mitochondrial dependent apoptosis activated during meiotic maturation.
PMCID: PMC3156807  PMID: 21858202
4.  Cell cycle dynamics of an M-phase-specific cytoplasmic factor in Xenopus laevis oocytes and eggs 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1984;98(4):1247-1255.
We have examined the regulation of maturation-promoting factor (MPF) activity in the mitotic and meiotic cell cycles of Xenopus laevis eggs and oocytes. To this end, we developed a method for the small scale extraction of eggs and oocytes and measured MPF activity in extracts by a dilution end point assay. We find that in oocytes, MPF activity appears before germinal vesicle breakdown and then disappears rapidly at the end of the first meiotic cycle. In the second meiotic cycle, MPF reappears before second metaphase, when maturation arrests. Thus, MPF cycling coincides with the abbreviated cycles of meiosis. When oocytes are induced to mature by low levels of injected MPF, cycloheximide does not prevent the appearance of MPF at high levels in the first cycle. This amplification indicates that an MPF precursor is present in the oocyte and activated by posttranslational means, triggered by the low level of injected MPF. Furthermore, MPF disappears approximately on time in such oocytes, indicating that the agent for MPF inactivation is also activated by posttranslational means. However, in the absence of protein synthesis, MPF never reappears in the second meiotic cycle. Upon fertilization or artificial activation of normal eggs, MPF disappears from the cytoplasm within 8 min. For a period thereafter, the inactivating agent remains able to destroy large amounts of MPF injected into the egg. It loses activity just as endogenous MPF appears at prophase of the first mitotic cycle. The repeated reciprocal cycling of MPF and the inactivating agent during cleavage stages is unaffected by colchicine and nocodazole and therefore does not require the effective completion of spindle formation, mitosis, or cytokinesis. However, MPF appearance is blocked by cycloheximide applied before mitosis; and MPF disappearance is blocked by cytostatic factor. In all these respects, MPF and the inactivating agent seem to be tightly linked to, and perhaps participate in, the cell cycle oscillator previously described for cleaving eggs of Xenopus laevis (Hara, K., P. Tydeman, and M. Kirschner, 1980, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 77:462- 466).
PMCID: PMC2113233  PMID: 6425302
5.  A Zinc-Dependent Mechanism Regulates Meiotic Progression in Mammalian Oocytes1 
Biology of Reproduction  2012;86(4):114.
Precise coordination of meiotic progression is a critical determinant of an egg's capacity to be fertilized successfully, and zinc has emerged as a key regulatory element in this process. An early manifestation of a regulatory role for this transition metal is the significant increase in total intracellular zinc. This accumulation is essential for meiotic progression beyond telophase I and the establishment of meiotic arrest at metaphase II. The subsequent developmental event, fertilization, induces a rapid expulsion of labile zinc that is a hallmark event in meiotic resumption. In the present study, we show that the zinc fluxes work, in part, by altering the activity of the cytostatic factor (CSF), the cellular activity required for the establishment and maintenance of metaphase II arrest in the mature, unfertilized egg. We propose a model in which zinc exerts concentration-dependent regulation of meiosis through the CSF component EMI2, a zinc-binding protein. Together, the data support the conclusion that zinc itself, through its interaction with EMI2, is a central component of the CSF.
Zinc dynamics in the mammalian oocyte may work through EMI2 to modulate establishment, maintenance, and release of metaphase II arrest.
PMCID: PMC3338659  PMID: 22302686
cytostatic factor; EMI2; meiosis; meiotic arrest; meiotic maturation; metal biology; oocyte; oocyte maturation; zinc
The Journal of General Physiology  1933;16(3):497-528.
1. The rate of oxygen consumption by eggs may not merely undergo no change at fertilization, as in the case of the starfish, but it decreases to about half in Chaetopterus and in Cumingia. 2. The absolute rate of oxygen consumption in mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs differs widely in several species of unfertilized eggs. It is very low in the sea urchin, intermediary in Nereis, and high in Chaetopterus and Cumingia. The range for these eggs is approximately 0.4 to 3.1 mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs at 21°C., in the ratio of about 1:8. 3. The absolute rates of oxygen consumption by the same fertilized eggs are much more nearly the same. They lie within the range 1.3 to 2.0 mm.3 O2 per hour per 10 mm.3 eggs at 21°C., in the ratio of approximately 1:1.5. Within this same range lie the values obtained by a number of investigators using a variety of eggs of invertebrates from several phyla. Amoeba proteus and frog skin also are within this range (see Fig. 2). 4. The changes in rate of oxygen consumption at fertilization by the different species of eggs, differing both in direction and magnitude, appear to be such as to bring the rate, when development is initiated, to about the same rate, which is also the rate of other comparable normally growing cells. 5. The direction and magnitude of the change in rate at fertilization therefore appears in the cases cited to be primarily a function of the absolute rate of oxygen consumption by the unfertilized eggs, which are characterized in their peculiar inhibited condition, among other things, by a wide range of respiratory rates. 6. It is not to be supposed that this range of rates will apply at all universally to eggs, especially to eggs of extremes in proportional content of inert materials, such as large yolky eggs. Fish and amphibian eggs for example respire at a much lower rate per unit volume. The effect on surface: volume ratios attending extremes of cell size might also be expected to shift the absolute rate. 7. The absolute rate of oxygen consumption by the eggs of the alga Fucus vesiculosus is considerably higher than the rates of the animal eggs measured. It is of the same order of magnitude as the rates of several other small-celled algae, which respire at a greater rate per unit volume than most non-motile animal cells. 8. The comparatively high rates of oxygen consumption by the inhibited (unfertilized) eggs of Chaetopterus and Cumingia are not directly associated with nuclear or morphological activity of the cell since they continue at the high rate for hours after cessation of the brief initial nuclear activity, which takes place when the eggs are placed in sea water. 9. It is concluded that the rate of oxygen consumption is not necessarily and probably not generally the limiting factor which causes inhibition of the unfertilized egg. Increase in rate of oxygen consumption is not directly related to the initiation of development, in general, nor even necessarily concomitant. It is not improbable that the low rate of oxygen consumption is an immediate part of the cause of inhibition of the unfertilized sea urchin egg, but this is a special case. 10. This thesis, that the rate of oxygen consumption is not necessarily nor ordinarily the limiting factor in the inhibition of the unfertilized egg, and conversely that increase in the rate of oxygen consumption is not usually the essential feature of fertilization, is quite in agreement with the general relations between the rate of oxygen consumption on the one hand and anesthesia, growth, and development on the other in fertilized eggs and other organisms. 11. This conclusion is opposed to Loeb's explanation of the essential feature of fertilization, as an increase in oxidation rate or more strictly to generalization of his hypothesis to include eggs other than those of the sea urchins (or of other similar special cases which may be discovered). It extends to fertilization (the initiation of development) his and Wasteney's well established conclusion that "oxidation is not the independent variable in development." 12. It is suggested that the crux of the problem of fertilization lies in the nature of the inhibition of the unfertilized egg. Certain similarities between this condition, arrived at spontaneously in the case of the egg cell, and the condition of cells in narcosis or anesthesia are pointed out. 13. Although the rate of oxygen consumption by the unfertilized eggs of Chaetopterus and Cumingia cannot be regarded as the limiting factor which causes the inhibition of the eggs, in these and other cases with different absolute rates, it appears highly probable that the rate of oxygen consumption is in some way, at present obscure, tied up with or related to the condition of inhibition. This seems probable especially in view of the sharp change in rate which in most cases immediately attends cessation of the inhibition, but the relationship may be a non-causal one, as in narcosis. 14. It must be borne in mind that oxygen consumption is not necessarily a complete measure of oxidation, and that other measures such as of heat and metabolite production are necessary before the complete amount of oxidation is known. When these are completely worked out, if free energy relations are known, it is probable that more direct and inclusive relations may be found between oxidation, growth, development, and anesthesia. Generalization of Loeb's hypothesis, using "oxidation" in the broad sense might then turn out to hold, with fertilization fitting into the general scheme, but there is no basis for it at the present time.
PMCID: PMC2141218  PMID: 19872719
7.  Induction of ovulation in Xenopus without hCG injection: the effect of adding steroids into the aquatic environment 
The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, is widely used in studies of oogenesis, meiotic cell cycle and early embryonic development. However, in order to perform such studies, eggs are normally collected after the injection of hCG into the dorsal lymph sac of fully-grown female frogs following pre-injection of PMSF. Although this protocol is established and used as standard laboratory approach, there are some concerns over whether the injections could cause the transmission of deleterious microorganisms. Moreover, these injection protocols require a competent skilled worker to carry out the procedure efficiently.
Recently, we established a novel method to induce fish ovulation by simply adding the natural maturation-inducing hormone of teleosts, 17 alpha, 20 beta-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (17,20 beta-DHP), into the surrounding water. In the present study, we demonstrate how we can induce ovulation in frogs using the same methodology.
In frogs, progesterone was effective in the induction of oocyte maturation in vitro. We then examined the ability of progesterone to induce ovulation in frogs. However treatment of frogs with progesterone alone only occasionally induced ovulation in vivo. The number of oocytes and the frequency of ovulation were significantly lower than that induced by hCG-injection. Thus, conditions were improved by using a combination of progesterone with estradiol and by pre-treating frogs with low concentrations of progesterone or estradiol. Finally, we established an efficient means of inducing ovulation in frogs which involved pre-treatment of frogs with salt solution followed by a mixture of estradiol and progesterone at high concentration. The frequency and numbers of oocytes obtained were identical to those resulting from PMSG-hCG induction. Fertilization rate of eggs ovulated by the new treatment method was comparable to eggs obtained by hCG-injection and juveniles developed normally.
To conclude, we have successfully developed a novel method to induce ovulation in frogs but without the need for a potentially harmful injection strategy.
PMCID: PMC3032665  PMID: 21255406
8.  A characterization of cytostatic factor activity from Xenopus eggs and c-mos-transformed cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1991;114(2):329-335.
In Xenopus oocytes, the mos proto-oncogene product is required during meiosis I for the activation of maturation promoting factor (MPF) and the subsequent breakdown of the germinal vesicle (GVBD). In addition, the mos product has been shown to be a candidate "initiator" of meiotic maturation and is an active component of cytostatic factor (CSF), an activity responsible for metaphase II arrest. Here we demonstrate that pp39mos is required throughout oocyte maturation. We found that in progesterone stimulated oocytes, depletion of mos RNA immediately before GVBD terminally decreased MPF. Likewise, oocytes depleted of mos RNA and induced to mature with crude MPF proceeded through GVBD but lacked the MPF activity required to arrest mature oocytes at metaphase II. Thus, during maturation the mos product is required, directly or indirectly, to sustain MPF activity. On the other hand, mouse NIH/3T3 cells transformed by the constitutive expression of pp39mosxc possessed CSF activity but lacked constitutive levels of MPF or its associated histone H1 kinase activity. Moreover, cytosols prepared from transformed NIH/3T3 cells or Xenopus eggs had similar levels of CSF activity, but pp39mos levels were greater than 40-fold higher in the transformed cell extract. These analyses show that maintenance of CSF during interphase does not result in the maintenance of MPF.
PMCID: PMC2289082  PMID: 1830055
9.  Zinc Maintains Prophase I Arrest in Mouse Oocytes Through Regulation of the MOS-MAPK Pathway1  
Biology of Reproduction  2012;87(1):11.
Meiosis in mammalian females is marked by two arrest points, at prophase I and metaphase II, which must be tightly regulated in order to produce a haploid gamete at the time of fertilization. The transition metal zinc has emerged as a necessary and dynamic regulator of the establishment, maintenance, and exit from metaphase II arrest, but the roles of zinc during prophase I arrest are largely unknown. In this study, we investigate the mechanisms of zinc regulation during the first meiotic arrest. Disrupting zinc availability in the prophase I arrested oocyte by treatment with the heavy metal chelator N,N,N′,N′-tetrakis-(2-pyridylmethyl)-ethylenediamine (TPEN) causes meiotic resumption even in the presence of pharmacological inhibitors of meiosis. We further show that the MOS-MAPK pathway mediates zinc-dependent prophase I arrest, as the pathway prematurely activates during TPEN-induced meiotic resumption. Conversely, inhibition of the MOS-MAPK pathway maintains prophase I arrest. While prolonged zinc insufficiency ultimately results in telophase I arrest, early and transient exposure of oocytes to TPEN is sufficient to induce meiotic resumption and bypass the telophase I block, allowing the formation of developmentally competent eggs upon parthenogenetic activation. These results establish zinc as a crucial regulator of meiosis throughout the entirety of oocyte maturation, including the maintenance of and release from the first and second meiotic arrest points.
Zinc homeostasis maintains prophase I arrest in mouse oocytes by inhibiting premature activation of the MOS-MAPK pathway, expanding the role of zinc signaling to encompass both physiological meiotic arrest points in the oocyte.
PMCID: PMC3406555  PMID: 22539682
egg; MAPK; meiosis; MOS; oocyte; zinc
10.  p42MAPK-mediated phosphorylation of xEIAP/XLX in Xenopus cytostatic factor-arrested egg extracts 
BMC Biochemistry  2007;8:5.
BIR family proteins are evolutionarily conserved anti-apoptotic molecules. One member of Xenopus BIR family proteins, xEIAP/XLX, is a weak apoptosis inhibitor and rapidly degraded in a cell-free apoptotic execution system derived from interphase egg extracts. However, unfertilized eggs are naturally arrested at the metaphase of meiosis II by the concerted activities of Mos-MEK-p42MAPK-p90Rsk kinase cascade (cytostatic factor pathway) and many mitotic kinases. Previous studies suggest that cytostatic factor-arrested egg extracts are more resistant to spontaneous apoptosis than interphase egg extracts in a p42MAPK-dependent manner. We tested whether xEIAP/XLX might be phosphorylated in cytostatic factor-arrested egg extracts, and also examined whether xEIAP/XLX could be functionally regulated by phosphorylation.
We found that p42MAPK was the major kinase phosphorylating xEIAP/XLX in cytostatic factor-arrested egg extracts, and three Ser residues (Ser 235/251/254) were identified as p42MAPK-mediated phosphorylation sites. We characterized the behaviors of various xEIAP/XLX mutants that could not be phosphorylated by p42MAPK. However, neither protein stability nor anti-apoptotic ability of xEIAP/XLX was significantly altered by the substitution of Ser with either Ala or Asp at these three sites.
xEIAP/XLX is physiologically phosphorylated by p42MAPK in Xenopus unfertilized eggs. However, this protein may not serve as an essential mediator of p42MAPK-dependent anti-apoptotic activity.
PMCID: PMC1854898  PMID: 17425806
11.  The spindle assembly checkpoint is not essential for CSF arrest of mouse oocytes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;167(6):1037-1050.
In Xenopus oocytes, the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) kinase Bub1 is required for cytostatic factor (CSF)-induced metaphase arrest in meiosis II. To investigate whether matured mouse oocytes are kept in metaphase by a SAC-mediated inhibition of the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) complex, we injected a dominant-negative Bub1 mutant (Bub1dn) into mouse oocytes undergoing meiosis in vitro. Passage through meiosis I was accelerated, but even though the SAC was disrupted, injected oocytes still arrested at metaphase II. Bub1dn-injected oocytes released from CSF and treated with nocodazole to disrupt the second meiotic spindle proceeded into interphase, whereas noninjected control oocytes remained arrested at metaphase. Similar results were obtained using dominant-negative forms of Mad2 and BubR1, as well as checkpoint resistant dominant APC/C activating forms of Cdc20. Thus, SAC proteins are required for checkpoint functions in meiosis I and II, but, in contrast to frog eggs, the SAC is not required for establishing or maintaining the CSF arrest in mouse oocytes.
PMCID: PMC2172623  PMID: 15611331
12.  Fertilization Induces a Transient Exposure of Phosphatidylserine in Mouse Eggs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71995.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is normally localized to the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane and the requirement of PS translocation to the outer leaflet in cellular processes other than apoptosis has been demonstrated recently. In this work we investigated the occurrence of PS mobilization in mouse eggs, which express flippase Atp8a1 and scramblases Plscr1 and 3, as determined by RT-PCR; these enzyme are responsible for PS distribution in cell membranes. We find a dramatic increase in binding of flouresceinated-Annexin-V, which specifically binds to PS, following fertilization or parthenogenetic activation induced by SrCl2 treatment. This increase was not observed when eggs were first treated with BAPTA-AM, indicating that an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration was required for PS exposure. Fluorescence was observed over the entire egg surface with the exception of the regions overlying the meiotic spindle and sperm entry site. PS exposure was also observed in activated eggs obtained from CaMKIIγ null females, which are unable to exit metaphase II arrest despite displaying Ca2+ spikes. In contrast, PS exposure was not observed in TPEN-activated eggs, which exit metaphase II arrest in the absence of Ca2+ release. PS exposure was also observed when eggs were activated with ethanol but not with a Ca2+ ionophore, suggesting that the Ca2+ source and concentration are relevant for PS exposure. Last, treatment with cytochalasin D, which disrupts microfilaments, or jasplakinolide, which stabilizes microfilaments, prior to egg activation showed that PS externalization is an actin-dependent process. Thus, the Ca2+ rise during egg activation results in a transient exposure of PS in fertilized eggs that is not associated with apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC3737209  PMID: 23951277
13.  The Intracellular pH-regulatory HCO3−/Cl− Exchanger in the Mouse Oocyte Is Inactivated during First Meiotic Metaphase and Reactivated after Egg Activation via the MAP Kinase Pathway 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2002;13(11):3800-3810.
The HCO3−/Cl− exchanger is quiescent in the unfertilized mouse egg but is highly active in regulating intracellular pH in the early embryo and required for normal development. We show here that the HCO3−/Cl− exchanger is active in first meiotic prophase (GV) oocyte but inactivated during meiotic metaphase before the MI to MII transition. Reactivation does not occur until the activated egg enters interphase. A quiescent HCO3−/Cl− exchanger is not simply a general feature of metaphase, because activity did not decrease during first mitotic metaphase. Inactivation of the HCO3−/Cl− exchanger during MI coincided with the activation of MAP kinase (MAPK), whereas its reactivation coincided with the loss of MAPK activity after egg activation. Maintaining high MAPK activity after egg activation prevented the normal reactivation of the HCO3−/Cl− exchanger. Inactivating MAPK in unfertilized MII eggs resulted in HCO3−/Cl− exchanger activation. Preventing MAPK activation during first meiotic metaphase prevented the inactivation of HCO3−/Cl− exchange. Conversely, activating MAPK in the GV oocyte resulted in inactivation of HCO3−/Cl− exchange. These results imply that the HCO3−/Cl− exchanger in mouse oocytes is negatively regulated by MAPK. Thus, suppression of pH-regulatory mechanisms during meiosis is a novel function of MAPK and cytostatic factor activity in the oocyte.
PMCID: PMC133593  PMID: 12429825
14.  HCO3−/Cl− Exchange Inactivation and Reactivation during Mouse Oocyte Meiosis Correlates with MEK/MAPK-Regulated Ae2 Plasma Membrane Localization 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7417.
Germinal Vesicle (GV) stage mouse oocytes in first meiotic prophase exhibit highly active HCO3−/Cl− exchange—a class of transport nearly ubiquitously involved in regulation of intracellular pH and cell volume. During meiosis, however, oocyte HCO3−/Cl− exchange becomes inactivated during first metaphase (MI), remains inactive in second metaphase (MII), and is reactivated only after egg activation. Previous work using pharmacological manipulations had indicated that activity of the MEK/MAPK signaling pathway was negatively correlated with HCO3−/Cl− exchange activity during meiosis. However, the mechanism by which the exchanger is inactivated during meiotic progression had not been determined, nor had the role of MEK/MAPK been directly established.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Expression of a constitutively active form of MEK (MAP kinase kinase), which prevented the normal downregulation of MAPK after egg activation, also prevented reactivation of HCO3−/Cl− exchange. Conversely, suppression of endogenous MAPK activity with dominant negative MEK activated the normally quiescent HCO3−/Cl− exchange in mature MII eggs. A GFP-tagged form of the HCO3−/Cl− exchanger isoform Ae2 (Slc4a2) was strongly expressed at the GV oocyte plasma membrane, but membrane localization decreased markedly during meiotic progression. A similar pattern for endogenous Ae2 was confirmed by immunocytochemistry. The loss of membrane-localized Ae2 appeared selective, since membrane localization of a GFP-tagged human dopamine D1 receptor did not change during meiotic maturation.
Direct manipulation of MAPK activity indicated that GFP-tagged Ae2 localization depended upon MAPK activity. Inactivation of HCO3−/Cl− exchange during the meiotic cell cycle may therefore reflect the loss of Ae2 from the oocyte plasma membrane, downstream of MEK/MAPK signaling. This identifies a novel role for MEK/MAPK-mediated cytostatic factor (CSF) activity during meiosis in membrane protein trafficking in mouse oocytes, and shows for the first time that selective retrieval of membrane proteins is a feature of meiosis in mammalian oocytes.
PMCID: PMC2757902  PMID: 19823673
15.  Mouse Oocyte Microinjection, Maturation and Ploidy Assessment 
Mistakes in chromosome segregation lead to aneuploid cells. In somatic cells, aneuploidy is associated with cancer but in gametes, aneuploidy leads to infertility, miscarriages or developmental disorders like Down syndrome. Haploid gametes form through species-specific developmental programs that are coupled to meiosis. The first meiotic division (MI) is unique to meiosis because sister chromatids remain attached while homologous chromosomes are segregated. For reasons not fully understood, this reductional division is prone to errors and is more commonly the source of aneuploidy than errors in meiosis II (MII) or than errors in male meiosis 1,2.
In mammals, oocytes arrest at prophase of MI with a large, intact germinal vesicle (GV; nucleus) and only resume meiosis when they receive ovulatory cues. Once meiosis resumes, oocytes complete MI and undergo an asymmetric cell division, arresting again at metaphase of MII. Eggs will not complete MII until they are fertilized by sperm. Oocytes also can undergo meiotic maturation using established in vitro culture conditions 3. Because generation of transgenic and gene-targeted mouse mutants is costly and can take long periods of time, manipulation of female gametes in vitro is a more economical and time-saving strategy.
Here, we describe methods to isolate prophase-arrested oocytes from mice and for microinjection. Any material of choice may be introduced into the oocyte, but because meiotically-competent oocytes are transcriptionally silent 4,5 cRNA, and not DNA, must be injected for ectopic expression studies. To assess ploidy, we describe our conditions for in vitro maturation of oocytes to MII eggs. Historically, chromosome-spreading techniques are used for counting chromosome number 6. This method is technically challenging and is limited to only identifying hyperploidies. Here, we describe a method to determine hypo-and hyperploidies using intact eggs 7-8. This method uses monastrol, a kinesin-5 inhibitor, that collapses the bipolar spindle into a monopolar spindle 9 thus separating chromosomes such that individual kinetochores can readily be detected and counted by using an anti-CREST autoimmune serum. Because this method is performed in intact eggs, chromosomes are not lost due to operator error.
PMCID: PMC3346305  PMID: 21808228
Cell biology;  Issue 53;  oocyte;  microinjection;  meiosis;  meiotic maturation;  aneuploidy
16.  Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase 3A–deficient mice as a model of female infertility 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2004;114(2):196-205.
Since cAMP blocks meiotic maturation of mammalian and amphibian oocytes in vitro and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase 3A (PDE3A) is primarily responsible for oocyte cAMP hydrolysis, we generated PDE3A-deficient mice by homologous recombination. The Pde3a–/– females were viable and ovulated a normal number of oocytes but were completely infertile, because ovulated oocytes were arrested at the germinal vesicle stage and, therefore, could not be fertilized. Pde3a–/– oocytes lacked cAMP-specific PDE activity, contained increased cAMP levels, and failed to undergo spontaneous maturation in vitro (up to 48 hours). Meiotic maturation in Pde3a–/– oocytes was restored by inhibiting protein kinase A (PKA) with adenosine-3′,5′-cyclic monophosphorothioate, Rp-isomer (Rp-cAMPS) or by injection of protein kinase inhibitor peptide (PKI) or mRNA coding for phosphatase CDC25, which confirms that increased cAMP-PKA signaling is responsible for the meiotic blockade. Pde3a–/– oocytes that underwent germinal vesicle breakdown showed activation of MPF and MAPK, completed the first meiotic division extruding a polar body, and became competent for fertilization by spermatozoa. We believe that these findings provide the first genetic evidence indicating that resumption of meiosis in vivo and in vitro requires PDE3A activity. Pde3a–/– mice represent an in vivo model where meiotic maturation and ovulation are dissociated, which underscores inhibition of oocyte maturation as a potential strategy for contraception.
PMCID: PMC449752  PMID: 15254586
17.  The CDC14A phosphatase regulates oocyte maturation in mouse 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2009;8(7):1090-1098.
The final steps of oogenesis occur during oocyte maturation that generates fertilization-competent haploid eggs capable of supporting embryonic development. Cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1) drives oocyte maturation and its activity and actions on substrates are tightly regulated. CDC14 is a dual-specificity phosphatase that reduces CDK1 activity and reverses the actions of CDK1 during mitosis. In budding yeast, Cdc14 is essential for meiosis, but it is not known whether its mammalian homolog CDC14A is required for meiosis in females. Here, we report that CDC14A is concentrated in the nucleus of meiotically incompetent mouse oocytes but is dispersed throughout meiotically competent oocytes. During meiotic progression CDC14A has no specific sub-cellular localization except between metaphase of meiosis I (Met I) and metaphase of meiosis II (Met II) when it co-localizes with the central portion of the meiotic spindle. Overexpression of CDC14A generally delays meiotic progression after resumption of meiosis whereas microinjection of oocytes with an antibody against CDC14A specifically delays exit from Met I. Each of these perturbations generates eggs with chromosome alignment abnormalities and eggs that were injected with the CDC14A antibody had an elevated incidence of aneuploidy. Collectively, these data suggest that CDC14A regulates oocyte maturation and functions to promote the meiosis I-to-meiosis II transition as its homolog does in budding yeast.
PMCID: PMC3188413  PMID: 19270517
CDC14A; meiosis; oocyte maturation; protein phosphatase; CDK
18.  Antiapoptotic Role for Ornithine Decarboxylase during Oocyte Maturation▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(7):1786-1795.
Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the rate-limiting enzyme in polyamine biosynthesis, is a nonredundant and essential gene in all eukaryotes. During the mitotic cell cycle, ODC exhibits two activity peaks: one at the G1/S transition and one during the G2/M transition. The physiological role of this cell cycle-dependent ODC activity dynamic is not clear. Previous studies have reported a significant elevation of ODC activity during Xenopus oocyte maturation, which resembles mitotic G2/M transition. In order to study the roles of ODC activity in the oocytes, we utilized antisense morpholino (xODC mo) oligonucleotides to inhibit ODC translation. We report here that xODC mo abolished ODC activity increase during oocyte maturation. xODC mo-injected oocytes underwent germinal vesicle breakdown, emitted the first polar body, and reached metaphase II, thus completing nuclear maturation. However, the metaphase II oocytes exhibited high levels of reactive oxygen species and became apoptotic. When transferred to host frogs and subsequently ovulated, these eggs were fertilized but exhibited embryo fragmentation. Translation of ODC is therefore integral to cytoplasmic maturation, protecting metaphase II oocytes from reactive oxygen species-induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2655605  PMID: 19158268
19.  Roles of brca2 (fancd1) in Oocyte Nuclear Architecture, Gametogenesis, Gonad Tumors, and Genome Stability in Zebrafish 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(3):e1001357.
Mild mutations in BRCA2 (FANCD1) cause Fanconi anemia (FA) when homozygous, while severe mutations cause common cancers including breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers when heterozygous. Here we report a zebrafish brca2 insertional mutant that shares phenotypes with human patients and identifies a novel brca2 function in oogenesis. Experiments showed that mutant embryos and mutant cells in culture experienced genome instability, as do cells in FA patients. In wild-type zebrafish, meiotic cells expressed brca2; and, unexpectedly, transcripts in oocytes localized asymmetrically to the animal pole. In juvenile brca2 mutants, oocytes failed to progress through meiosis, leading to female-to-male sex reversal. Adult mutants became sterile males due to the meiotic arrest of spermatocytes, which then died by apoptosis, followed by neoplastic proliferation of gonad somatic cells that was similar to neoplasia observed in ageing dead end (dnd)-knockdown males, which lack germ cells. The construction of animals doubly mutant for brca2 and the apoptotic gene tp53 (p53) rescued brca2-dependent sex reversal. Double mutants developed oocytes and became sterile females that produced only aberrant embryos and showed elevated risk for invasive ovarian tumors. Oocytes in double-mutant females showed normal localization of brca2 and pou5f1 transcripts to the animal pole and vasa transcripts to the vegetal pole, but had a polarized rather than symmetrical nucleus with the distribution of nucleoli and chromosomes to opposite nuclear poles; this result revealed a novel role for Brca2 in establishing or maintaining oocyte nuclear architecture. Mutating tp53 did not rescue the infertility phenotype in brca2 mutant males, suggesting that brca2 plays an essential role in zebrafish spermatogenesis. Overall, this work verified zebrafish as a model for the role of Brca2 in human disease and uncovered a novel function of Brca2 in vertebrate oocyte nuclear architecture.
Author Summary
Women with one strong BRCA2(FANCD1) mutation have high risks of breast and ovarian cancer. People with two mild BRCA2(FANCD1) mutations develop Fanconi Anemia, which reduces DNA repair leading to genome instability, small gonads, infertility, and cancer. Humans and mice lacking BRCA2 activity die before birth. We discovered that zebrafish brca2 mutants show chromosome instability and small gonads, and they develop only as sterile adult males. Female-to-male sex reversal is due to oocyte death during sex determination. Normal animals expressed brca2 in developing eggs and sperm that are repairing DNA breaks associated with genetic reshuffling. Normal developing eggs localized brca2 RNA near the nucleus, suggesting a role in protecting rapidly dividing early embryonic cells. Sperm-forming cells died in adult mutant males. Inhibition of cell death rescued sex reversal, but not fertility. Rescued females developed invasive ovarian tumors and formed eggs with abnormal nuclear architecture. The novel role of Brca2 in organizing the vertebrate egg nucleus may provide new insights into the origin of ovarian cancer. These results validate zebrafish as a model for human BRCA2-related diseases and provide a tool for the identification of substances that can rescue zebrafish brca2 mutants and thus become candidates for therapeutic molecules for human disease.
PMCID: PMC3069109  PMID: 21483806
20.  Differential Expression and Functions of Cortical Myosin IIA and IIB Isotypes during Meiotic Maturation, Fertilization, and Mitosis in Mouse Oocytes and Embryos 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1998;9(9):2509-2525.
To explore the role of nonmuscle myosin II isoforms during mouse gametogenesis, fertilization, and early development, localization and microinjection studies were performed using monospecific antibodies to myosin IIA and IIB isotypes. Each myosin II antibody recognizes a 205-kDa protein in oocytes, but not mature sperm. Myosin IIA and IIB demonstrate differential expression during meiotic maturation and following fertilization: only the IIA isoform detects metaphase spindles or accumulates in the mitotic cleavage furrow. In the unfertilized oocyte, both myosin isoforms are polarized in the cortex directly overlying the metaphase-arrested second meiotic spindle. Cortical polarization is altered after spindle disassembly with Colcemid: the scattered meiotic chromosomes initiate myosin IIA and microfilament assemble in the vicinity of each chromosome mass. During sperm incorporation, both myosin II isotypes concentrate in the second polar body cleavage furrow and the sperm incorporation cone. In functional experiments, the microinjection of myosin IIA antibody disrupts meiotic maturation to metaphase II arrest, probably through depletion of spindle-associated myosin IIA protein and antibody binding to chromosome surfaces. Conversely, the microinjection of myosin IIB antibody blocks microfilament-directed chromosome scattering in Colcemid-treated mature oocytes, suggesting a role in mediating chromosome–cortical actomyosin interactions. Neither myosin II antibody, alone or coinjected, blocks second polar body formation, in vitro fertilization, or cytokinesis. Finally, microinjection of a nonphosphorylatable 20-kDa regulatory myosin light chain specifically blocks sperm incorporation cone disassembly and impedes cell cycle progression, suggesting that interference with myosin II phosphorylation influences fertilization. Thus, conventional myosins break cortical symmetry in oocytes by participating in eccentric meiotic spindle positioning, sperm incorporation cone dynamics, and cytokinesis. Although murine sperm do not express myosin II, different myosin II isotypes may have distinct roles during early embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC25518  PMID: 9725909
21.  The RNA-Binding Protein, ZFP36L2, Influences Ovulation and Oocyte Maturation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97324.
ZFP36L2 protein destabilizes AU-rich element-containing transcripts and has been implicated in female fertility. In the C57BL/6NTac mouse, a mutation in Zfp36l2 that results in the decreased expression of a form of ZFP36L2 in which the 29 N-terminal amino acid residues have been deleted, ΔN-ZFP36L2, leads to fertilized eggs that arrest at the two-cell stage. Interestingly, homozygous ΔN-Zfp36l2 females in the C57BL/6NTac strain release 40% fewer eggs than the WT littermates (Ramos et al., 2004), suggesting an additional defect in ovulation and/or oocyte maturation. Curiously, the same ΔN-Zfp36l2 mutation into the SV129 strain resulted in anovulation, prompting us to investigate a potential problem in ovulation and oocyte maturation. Remarkably, only 20% of ΔN-Zfp36l2 oocytes in the 129S6/SvEvTac strain matured ex vivo, suggesting a defect on the oocyte meiotic maturation process. Treatment of ΔN-Zfp36l2 oocytes with a PKA inhibitor partially rescued the meiotic arrested oocytes. Furthermore, cAMP levels were increased in ΔN-Zfp36l2 oocytes, linking the cAMP/PKA pathway and ΔN-Zfp36l2 with meiotic arrest. Since ovulation and oocyte maturation are both triggered by LHR signaling, the downstream pathway was investigated. Adenylyl cyclase activity was increased in ΔN-Zfp36l2 ovaries only upon LH stimulation. Moreover, we discovered that ZFP36L2 interacts with the 3′UTR of LHR mRNA and that decreased expression levels of Zfp36l2 correlates with higher levels of LHR mRNA in synchronized ovaries. Furthermore, overexpression of ZFP36L2 decreases the endogenous expression of LHR mRNA in a cell line. Therefore, we propose that lack of the physiological down regulation of LHR mRNA levels by ZFP36L2 in the ovaries is associated with anovulation and oocyte meiotic arrest.
PMCID: PMC4022657  PMID: 24830504
22.  Induction of Apoptosis in Starfish Eggs Requires Spontaneous Inactivation of MAPK (Extracellular Signal-regulated Kinase) Followed by Activation of p38MAPK 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(3):1387-1396.
Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) prevents DNA replication and parthenogenesis in maturing oocytes. After the meiotic cell cycle in starfish eggs, MAPK activity is maintained until fertilization. When eggs are fertilized, inactivation of MAPK occurs, allowing development to proceed. Without fertilization, highly synchronous apoptosis of starfish eggs starts 10 h after germinal vesicle breakdown, which varies according to season and individual animals. For induction of the apoptosis, MAPK should be activated for a definite period, called the MAPK-dependent period, during which eggs develop competence to die, although the exact duration of the period was unclear. In this study, we show that the duration of the MAPK-dependent period was ∼8 h. Membrane blebbing occurred ∼2 h after the MAPK-dependent period. Surprisingly, when MAPK was inhibited by U0126 after the MAPK-dependent period, activation of caspase-3 occurred earlier than in the control eggs. Thus, inactivation of MAPK is a prerequisite for apoptosis. Also, even in the absence of the inhibitor, MAPK was inactivated spontaneously when eggs began to bleb, indicating that inactivation of MAPK after the MAPK-dependent period acts upstream of caspase-3. Inactivation of MAPK also resulted in the activation of p38MAPK, which may contribute to apoptotic body formation.
PMCID: PMC363150  PMID: 14699071
23.  Zinc sparks are triggered by fertilization and facilitate cell cycle resumption in mammalian eggs 
ACS chemical biology  2011;6(7):716-723.
In last few hours of maturation, the mouse oocyte takes up over twenty billion zinc atoms and arrests after the first meiotic division, until fertilization or pharmacological intervention stimulates cell cycle progression towards a new embryo. Using chemical and physical probes, we show that fertilization of the mature, zinc-enriched egg triggers the ejection of zinc into the extracellular milieu in a series of coordinated events termed zinc sparks. These events immediately follow the well-established series of calcium oscillations within the activated egg and are evolutionarily conserved in several mammalian species, including rodents and non-human primates. Functionally, the zinc sparks mediate a decrease in intracellular zinc content that is necessary for continued cell cycle progression, as increasing zinc levels within the activated egg results in the reestablishment of cell cycle arrest at metaphase. The mammalian egg thus uses a zinc-dependent switch mechanism to toggle between metaphase arrest and resumption of the meiotic cell cycle at the initiation of embryonic development.
PMCID: PMC3171139  PMID: 21526836
24.  Calcium Signaling and Meiotic Exit at Fertilization in Xenopus Egg 
Calcium is a universal messenger that mediates egg activation at fertilization in all sexually reproducing species studied. However, signaling pathways leading to calcium generation and the mechanisms of calcium-induced exit from meiotic arrest vary substantially among species. Here, we review the pathways of calcium signaling and the mechanisms of meiotic exit at fertilization in the eggs of the established developmental model, African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis. We also discuss calcium involvement in the early fertilization-induced events in Xenopus egg, such as membrane depolarization, the increase in intracellular pH, cortical granule exocytosis, cortical contraction, contraction wave, cortical rotation, reformation of the nuclear envelope, sperm chromatin decondensation and sister chromatid segregation.
PMCID: PMC4227238  PMID: 25322156
eggs; fertilization; activation; calcium; Xenopus laevis
25.  Spindle checkpoint proteins Mad1 and Mad2 are required for cytostatic factor–mediated metaphase arrest 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2003;163(6):1231-1242.
In cells containing disrupted spindles, the spindle assembly checkpoint arrests the cell cycle in metaphase. The budding uninhibited by benzimidazole (Bub) 1, mitotic arrest-deficient (Mad) 1, and Mad2 proteins promote this checkpoint through sustained inhibition of the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome. Vertebrate oocytes undergoing meiotic maturation arrest in metaphase of meiosis II due to a cytoplasmic activity termed cytostatic factor (CSF), which appears not to be regulated by spindle dynamics. Here, we show that microinjection of Mad1 or Mad2 protein into early Xenopus laevis embryos causes metaphase arrest like that caused by Mos. Microinjection of antibodies to either Mad1 or Mad2 into maturing oocytes blocks the establishment of CSF arrest in meiosis II, and immunodepletion of either protein blocked the establishment of CSF arrest by Mos in egg extracts. A Mad2 mutant unable to oligomerize (Mad2 R133A) did not cause cell cycle arrest in blastomeres or in egg extracts. Once CSF arrest has been established, maintenance of metaphase arrest requires Mad1, but not Mad2 or Bub1. These results suggest a model in which CSF arrest by Mos is mediated by the Mad1 and Mad2 proteins in a manner distinct from the spindle checkpoint.
PMCID: PMC2173727  PMID: 14691134
MAPK; Mad; spindle assembly checkpoint; mitosis; Bub1

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