The 14-3-3 (YWHA) proteins are a highly conserved, ubiquitously expressed family of proteins. Seven mammalian isoforms of 14-3-3 are known (β, γ, ε, ζ, η, τ and, σ). These proteins associate with many intracellular proteins involved in a variety of cellular processes including regulation of the cell cycle, metabolism and protein trafficking. We are particularly interested in the role of 14-3-3 in meiosis in mammalian eggs and the role 14-3-3 proteins may play in ovarian function. Therefore, we examined the expression of 14-3-3 proteins in mouse oocyte and egg extracts by Western blotting after polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, viewed fixed cells by indirect immunofluorescence, and examined mouse ovarian cells by immunohistochemical staining to study the expression of the different 14-3-3 isoforms.
We have determined that all of the mammalian 14-3-3 isoforms are expressed in mouse eggs and ovarian follicular cells including oocytes. Immunofluorescence confocal microscopy of isolated oocytes and eggs confirmed the presence of all of the isoforms with characteristic differences in some of their intracellular localizations. For example, some isoforms (β, ε, γ, and ζ) are expressed more prominently in peripheral cytoplasm compared to the germinal vesicles in oocytes, but are uniformly dispersed within eggs. On the other hand, 14-3-3η is diffusely dispersed in the oocyte, but attains a uniform punctate distribution in the egg with marked accumulation in the region of the meiotic spindle apparatus. Immunohistochemical staining detected all isoforms within ovarian follicles, with some similarities as well as notable differences in relative amounts, localizations and patterns of expression in multiple cell types at various stages of follicular development.
We found that mouse oocytes, eggs and follicular cells within the ovary express all seven isoforms of the 14-3-3 protein. Examination of the differential expression of these 14-3-3 isoforms in female germ cells and ovarian follicles provides the foundation for further investigating 14-3-3 isoform-specific interactions with key proteins involved in ovarian development, meiosis and oocyte maturation. This will lead to a better understanding of the individual functional roles of the 14-3-3 protein isoforms in mammalian oogenesis and female reproductive development.