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.
Apoptosis; Unlaid eggs; Maturation; Ovulation; Meiotic exit; Xenopus laevis; Genital tract
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.
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.
cytostatic factor; EMI2; meiosis; meiotic arrest; meiotic maturation; metal biology; oocyte; oocyte maturation; zinc
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
MAPK; Mad; spindle assembly checkpoint; mitosis; Bub1
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.
The c-Mos proto-oncogene product plays an essential role during
meiotic divisions in vertebrate eggs. In Xenopus, it is
required for progression of oocyte maturation and meiotic arrest of
unfertilized eggs. Its degradation after fertilization is essential to
early embryogenesis. In this study we investigated the mechanisms
involved in c-Mos degradation. We present in vivo evidence for
ubiquitin-dependent degradation of c-Mos in activated eggs. We found
that c-Mos degradation is not directly dependent on the
anaphase-promoting factor activator Fizzy/cdc20 but requires cyclin
degradation. We demonstrate that cyclin B/cdc2 controls in vivo c-Mos
phosphorylation and stabilization. Moreover, we show that cyclin B/cdc2
is capable of directly phosphorylating c-Mos in vitro, inducing a
similar mobility shift to the one observed in vivo. Tryptic
phosphopeptide analysis revealed a practically identical in vivo and in
vitro phosphopeptide map and allowed identification of serine-3 as the
largely preferential phosphorylation site as previously described
(Freeman et al., 1992). Altogether, these results
demonstrate that, in vivo, stability of c-Mos is
directly regulated by cyclin B/cdc2 kinase activity.
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.
Inhibition of okadaic acid-sensitive phosphatases released the cyclin degradation pathway from its inhibited state in extracts prepared from unfertilized Xenopus eggs arrested at the second meiotic metaphase. It also switched on cyclin protease activity in a permanent fashion in interphase extracts prepared from activated eggs. Even after cdc2 kinase inactivation, microinjection of okadaic acid-treated interphase extracts pushed G2-arrested recipient oocytes into the M phase, suggesting that the phosphatase inhibitor stabilizes the activity of an unidentified factor which shares in common with cdc2 kinase the maturation-promoting factor activity.
We have produced metaphase spindles and induced them to enter anaphase in vitro. Sperm nuclei were added to frog egg extracts, allowed to replicate their DNA, and driven into metaphase by the addition of cytoplasm containing active maturation promoting factor (MPF) and cytostatic factor (CSF), an activity that stabilizes MPF. Addition of calcium induces the inactivation of MPF, sister chromatid separation and anaphase chromosome movement. DNA topoisomerase II inhibitors prevent chromosome segregation at anaphase, demonstrating that the chromatids are catenated at metaphase and that decatenation occurs at the start of anaphase. Topoisomerase II activity towards exogenous substrates does not increase at the metaphase to anaphase transition, showing that chromosome separation at anaphase is not triggered by a bulk activation of topoisomerase II.
Although much is known about the reproductive biology of pond-breeding frogs, there is comparatively little information about terrestrial-breeding anurans, a highly successful and diverse group. This study investigates the activation and in vitro fertilization of eggs of the Puerto Rican coqui frog obtained by hormonally induced ovulation. We report that spontaneous activation occurs in 34% of eggs, probably in response to mechanical stress during oviposition. Artificial activation, as evidenced by the slow block to polyspermy and the onset of zygote division, was elicited both by mechanical stimulation and calcium ionophore exposure in 64% and 83% of the cases, respectively. Finally, one in vitro fertilization protocol showed a 27% success rate, despite the fact that about one third of all unfertilized eggs obtained by hormone injection auto-activate. We expect these findings to aid in the conservation effort of Eleutherodactylus frogs, the largest vertebrate genus.
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.
Membrane microdomains or lipid/membrane rafts are distinct areas on the plasma membranes, where a specific subset of lipids (e.g. cholesterol, sphingolipids) and proteins (e.g. glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, growth factor receptor/kinases) are getting together and functioning for several aspects of cellular functions. Our recent investigation has revealed that fertilization of African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, requires cholesterol-dependent nature of egg membrane microdomains. Moreover, fertilization of Xenopus eggs involves proteolytic cleavage of the extracellular part and subsequent phosphorylation of a cytoplasmic tyrosine residue of uroplakin III, an egg membrane microdomain-associated protein. Protease activity toward uroplakin III seems to be derived from fertilizing sperm, while phosphorylation of uroplakin III seems to be catalyzed by the egg tyrosine kinase Src, whose activation is required for cytoplasmic rearrangement of fertilized eggs; so-called ‘egg activation’. Therefore, it is assumed that uroplakin III serves an integral part of signal transduction in fertilization of Xenopus. Our more recent study on human cancer cells has revealed that a similar but distinct scheme of signal transduction operates in anti-apoptotic growth of cells. Namely, in human bladder carcinoma cells, cooperation of uroplakin III and Src, both of which localize to the membrane microdomains, allows cells to escape from apoptotic cell death and proliferate under culture conditions deprived of serum. In this review, I briefly introduce about biology of fertilization and cancer, and then present and discuss our experimental data on general importance and specific features of membrane microdomains in Xenopus fertilization and anti-apoptosis in human bladder carcinoma cells.
Normal female fertility relies on proper development of the oocyte. This growth culminates just prior to ovulation, when oocyte maturation occurs. Oocyte maturation refers to a release of meiotic arrest that allows oocytes to advance from prophase I to metaphase II of meiosis. This precisely regulated meiotic progression is essential for normal ovulation and subsequent fertilization, and involves changes in the delicate balance between factors promoting meiotic arrest and others that are stimulating maturation. Most of the inhibitory mechanisms appear to involve the upregulation of intracellular cyclic adenosine monophosphate levels. These processes may include direct transport of the nucleotide into oocytes via gap junctions, G protein-mediated stimulation of adenylyl cyclase, and inhibition of intracellular phosphodiesterases. In contrast, potential factors that play roles in triggering oocyte maturation include gonadotropins (e.g., follicle-stimulating factor and luteinizing hormone), growth factors (e.g., amphiregulin and epiregulin), sterols (e.g., follicular fluid-derived meiosis-activating sterol), and steroids (e.g., testosterone progesterone, and estradiol). Delineating the complex interactions between these positive and negative components is critical for determining the role that oocyte maturation plays in regulating follicle development and ovulation, and may lead to novel methods that can be used to modulate these processes in women with both normal and aberrant fertility.
Oocyte; ovary; maturation; steroids; nongenomic
Maturation promoting factor (MPF), a complex of cyclin-dependent kinase 1 and cyclin B, drives oocyte maturation in all animals. Mechanisms to block MPF activation in developing oocytes must exist to prevent precocious cell cycle progression prior to oocyte maturation and fertilization. This study sought to determine the developmental consequences of precociously activating MPF in oocytes prior to fertilization. Whereas depletion of Myt1 in Xenopus oocytes causes nuclear envelope breakdown in vitro, we found that depletion of the Myt1 ortholog WEE-1.3 in C. elegans hermaphrodites causes precocious oocyte maturation in vivo. Although such oocytes are ovulated, they are fertilization incompetent. We have also observed novel phenotypes in these precociously maturing oocytes, such as chromosome coalescence, aberrant meiotic spindle organization, and the expression of a meiosis II post-fertilization marker. Furthermore, co-depletion studies of CDK-1 and WEE-1.3 demonstrate that WEE-1.3 is dispensable in the absence of CDK-1, suggesting that CDK-1 is a major target of WEE-1.3 in C. elegans oocytes.
Oocyte maturation; Meiotic maturation; Myt1; Wee1; Cdk1
In response to many different apoptotic stimuli, cytochrome c is released from the intermembrane space of the mitochondria into the cytoplasm, where it serves as a cofactor in the activation of procaspase 9. Inhibition of this process can occur either by preventing cytochrome c release or by blocking caspase activation or activity. Experiments involving in vitro reconstitution of apoptosis in cell-free extracts of Xenopus laevis eggs have suggested that extracts arrested in interphase are susceptible to an endogenous apoptotic program leading to caspase activation, whereas extracts arrested in meiotic metaphase are not. We report here that Mos/MEK/MAPK pathways active in M phase–arrested eggs are responsible for rendering them refractory to apoptosis. Interestingly, M phase–arrested extracts are competent to release cytochrome c, yet still do not activate caspases. Concomitantly, we have also demonstrated that recombinant Mos, MEK, and ERK are sufficient to block cytochrome c–dependent caspase activation in purified Xenopus cytosol, which lacks both transcription and translation. These data indicate that the MAP kinase pathway can target and inhibit post–cytochrome c release apoptotic events in the absence of new mRNA/protein synthesis and that this biochemical pathway is responsible for the apoptotic inhibition observed in meiotic X. laevis egg extracts.
Mature oocytes of Drosophila are arrested in metaphase of meiosis I. Upon activation by ovulation or fertilization, oocytes undergo a series of rapid changes that have not been directly visualized previously. We report here the use of the Nonclaret disjunctional (Ncd) microtubule motor protein fused to the green fluorescent protein (GFP) to monitor changes in the meiotic spindle of live oocytes after activation in vitro. Meiotic spindles of metaphase-arrested oocytes are relatively stable, however, meiotic spindles of in vitro–activated oocytes are highly dynamic: the spindles elongate, rotate around their long axis, and undergo an acute pivoting movement to reorient perpendicular to the oocyte surface. Many oocytes spontaneously complete the meiotic divisions, permitting visualization of progression from meiosis I to II. The movements of the spindle after oocyte activation provide new information about the dynamic changes in the spindle that occur upon re-entry into meiosis and completion of the meiotic divisions. Spindles in live oocytes mutant for a lossof-function ncd allele fused to gfp were also imaged. The genesis of spindle defects in the live mutant oocytes provides new insights into the mechanism of Ncd function in the spindle during the meiotic divisions.
Vertebrate oocytes arrest in metaphase of the second meiotic division (MII), where they maintain a high cdc2/cyclin B activity and a stable, bipolar spindle because of cytostatic factor (CSF) activity. The Mos–MAPK pathway is essential for establishing CSF. Indeed, oocytes from the mos−/− strain do not arrest in MII and activate without fertilization, as do Xenopus laevis oocytes injected with morpholino oligonucleotides directed against Mos. In Xenopus oocytes, p90Rsk (ribosomal S6 kinase), a MAPK substrate, is the main mediator of CSF activity. We show here that this is not the case in mouse oocytes. The injection of constitutively active mutant forms of Rsk1 and Rsk2 does not induce a cell cycle arrest in two-cell mouse embryos. Moreover, these two mutant forms do not restore MII arrest after their injection into mos−/− oocytes. Eventually, oocytes from the triple Rsk (1, 2, 3) knockout present a normal CSF arrest. We demonstrate that p90Rsk is not involved in the MII arrest of mouse oocytes.
As first shown more than 100 years ago, fertilization of an aged (overripe) egg increases the rate of malformations and embryonic loss in several vertebrates, including possibly humans as well. Since the molecular events in aging eggs may be similar in these species, we established in the frog Xenopus tropicalis a defined protocol for delayed fertilization of eggs. A three-hour delayed fertilization led to a dramatic increase in malformation and mortality. Gene expression profiling revealed that 14% of the polyadenylated maternal transcripts were downregulated upon aging. These transcripts were not degraded, but rather deadenylated as shown for specific maternal mRNAs. The affected transcripts are characterized by a relatively short 3′UTR and a paucity of cytoplasmic polyadenylation elements (CPE) and polyadenylation signals (PAS). Furthermore, maternal mRNAs known to be deadenylated during egg maturation as well as after fertilization were preferentially deadenylated in aged eggs. Taken together our analysis of aging eggs reveals that unfertilized eggs are in a dynamic state that was previously not realized. On the one hand deadenylation of transcripts that are typically deadenylated during egg maturation continues and this implies overripeness of the aged egg in the truest sense of the word. On the other hand transcripts that normally are deadenylated after fertilization loose their poly(A) in the aged egg and this implies that the egg awaiting fertilization starts processes that are normally only observed after fertilization. Based on our novel finding we postulate that the imbalance of the polyadenylated maternal transcripts upon egg aging contributes to the loss of developmental potential. Based on this hypothesis the developmental consequences of downregulation of specific transcripts can be analyzed in future.
Many parasitic species of insects complete their entire development in seeds. They feed off storage reserves within the ovule. These reserves only normally accumulate in fertilized ovules. Consequently, female insects that oviposit their eggs directly into the plant ovule need to be able to select correctly, as unfertilized ovules of conifers normally become so-called empty seed. We provide clear evidence that in conifers, seed-parasitizing insects do not need to discriminate between fertilized and unfertilized plant ovules when ovipositing their eggs. A host-specific insect, the chalcid Megastigmus spermotrophus Wachtl (Hymenoptera: Torymidae), lays its eggs in ovules of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco) before fertilization has taken place in the plant. Oviposition not only prevents the expected degeneration and death of unfertilized ovules, but it induces energy reserve accumulation. Ovules that would otherwise develop as empty seed are redirected in their development by the insect to provide food for the developing larvae. Instead of the insect exploiting normal events during seed development, the insect manipulates seed development for its own reproductive advantage.
seed parasite; seed development; Pseudotsuga; Megastigmus
Approximately one in six married couples find themselves involuntarily infertile. This ratio translates to between two and four million U.S. couples. Although numerous tests are available for diagnosing infertility problems, 5-10 percent of all couples who seek medical treatment are diagnosed with unexplained infertility. Several tests are presently available for diagnosing male infertility; however, none of the present procedures test for activation of the sperm nucleus following entry into the fertilized egg, a series of events critical for the entry of the zygote into the developmental program. We have developed an in vitro human sperm activation assay, using Xenopus laevis frog egg extract. When normal human sperm is permeabilized and then mixed with frog egg extract, the sperm nuclei decondense, synthesize DNA, and recondense during a three-hour time course. We have tested this assay's utility in diagnosing previously unexplained infertility. We found that 20 percent of the male infertility patients produced sperm that responded abnormally in the assay (95 percent confidence interval, 4-48 percent; n = 15), while sperm samples from 15 fertile males showed no abnormal responses (p = 0.0112). These preliminary results indicate that the human sperm activation assay may be a useful tool for diagnosing some cases of human infertility.
In co-cultures of pachytene spermatocytes with Sertoli cells, β-NGF regulates the second meiotic division by blocking secondary spermatocytes in metaphase (metaphase II), and thereby lowers round spermatid formation. In vertebrates, mature oocytes are arrested at metaphase II until fertilization, because of the presence of cytostatic factor (CSF) in their cytoplasm. By analogy, we hypothesized the presence of CSF in male germ cells.
We show here, that Mos, Emi2, cyclin E and Cdk2, the four proteins of CSF, and their respective mRNAs, are present in male rat meiotic cells; this was assessed by using Western blotting, immunocytochemistry and reverse transcriptase PCR. We measured the relative cellular levels of Mos, Emi2, Cyclin E and Cdk2 in the meiotic cells by flow cytometry and found that the four proteins increased throughout the first meiotic prophase, reaching their highest levels in middle to late pachytene spermatocytes, then decreased following the meiotic divisions. In co-cultures of pachytene spermatocytes with Sertoli cells, β-NGF increased the number of metaphases II, while enhancing Mos and Emi2 levels in middle to late pachytene spermatocytes, pachytene spermatocytes in division and secondary spermatocytes.
Our results suggest that CSF is not restricted to the oocyte. In addition, they reinforce the view that NGF, by enhancing Mos in late spermatocytes, is one of the intra-testicular factors which adjusts the number of round spermatids that can be supported by Sertoli cells.