Cumulus cells of oocyte-cumulus complexes secrete a meiosis-activating substance when stimulated with FSH

A G Byskov, C Yding Andersen, A Hossaini, X Guoliang
Molecular Reproduction and Development 1997, 46 (3): 296-305
The effect of the different follicular cell types on resumption of meiosis was studied during stimulation with FSH. Cumulus enclosed oocytes (CEO), denuded oocytes (DO), and cumulus and mural granulosa cells were used. The resumption of meiosis and oocyte maturation were assessed by the determination of the germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) and polar body formation (PB) at the end of a 24 hr culture period in the presence of 4 mM hypoxanthine (HX). The effects of recombinant LH (r-LH) and hCG were also evaluated. Oocyte exposure to the gonadotrophins varied from 5 min to 24 hr (i.e., priming time). Oocytes were obtained from immature gonadotrophin-stimulated and -unstimulated mice. 1. FSH (1 IU/L-75 IU/L) provoked a dose-dependent increase in GVBD and PB in CEO, but not in DO, in stimulated and unstimulated mice. Eight IU/L was sufficient for inducing resumption of meiosis. In contrast, LH and hCG (both 1 IU/L-1500 IU/L) were without effect on GVBD and PB in CEO and DO of oocytes from stimulated and unstimulated mice. A combination of 8 IU/L FSH and 4-8 IU/L hCG produced an additive effect, whereas combinations with LH and higher concentrations of hCG had no such effect. 2. A 2 hr priming with FSH (8 IU/L-75 IU/L) induced a dose-dependent oocyte maturation in CEO. Thirty minutes of priming with FSH (75 IU/L) was sufficient for induction of meiotic resumption in CEO. 3. Priming CEO with FSH for 2 hr followed by the separation and repooling of oocytes and cumulus cells induced oocyte maturation. GVBD of new, unprimed DO added to cumulus cells of primed CEO increased slightly but was significant, whereas GVBD in DO isolated from the primed CEO only increased marginally. DO cocultured with FSH-primed cumulus masses seem to be prevented from resuming meiosis. 4. Priming a coculture of granulosa cells and DO with FSH for 2 hr caused a significant increase in GVBD compared to the control, evaluated after 24 hr. In contrast, a 24 hr FSH-priming of a coculture of granulosa cells and DO was without effect on GVBD. 5. A spent medium in which unstimulated cumulus cells or mural granulosa cells had grown was without effect on GVBD in DO. However, a small fraction of the DO resumed meiosis after culture in a spent medium derived from a 2 hr priming of CEO and spent media from 24 hr priming of CEO induced a 2-3 times higher GVBD frequency in the DO compared to the controls. Heat treatment of spent media (70 degrees C, 30 min) from a 24 hr FSH-priming of CEO still induced GVBD in naive DO. The results showed that FSH, in a concentration of as little as 8 IU/L, but not r-LH and hCG, induced within 30 minutes the cumulus cells to produce and after 2 hr to secrete a diffusible heat stable meiosis activating substance. This substance overcame, in a paracrine fashion, the inhibiting effect of HX and induced oocyte maturation directly in DO. The production of this substance, however, was dependent on the initial connection between the cumulus cells and the oocyte, indicating an important 2-way communication between these 2 cell types. The mural granulosa cells did not produce a meiosis inducing activity by stimulation with FSH, but significantly, more DO matured after coculture with the nonstimulated granulosa cells for 24 hr than for 2 hr. It is proposed that the heat stable meiosis activating component of the spent media from the FSH-stimulated CEO belongs to the meiosis activating sterols, MAS, previously isolated from human follicular fluid and from adult bull testes.

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