Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology


K. Uhde A , H. T. A. van Tol A , T. A. E. Stout A and B. A. J. Roelen A
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Department of Farm Animal Health, Utrecht University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 28(2) 163-163
Published: 3 December 2015


Mammalian oocytes are surrounded by cumulus cells, forming a structure known as the cumulus-oocyte complex (COC). Cumulus cells play important protective functions during oocyte maturation, for example, protecting the oocyte against reactive oxygen species. However, it is not yet fully understood how the cumulus complex modulates the developmental competence of the enclosed oocyte. It was investigated whether direct contact between an oocyte and its cumulus cells is essential throughout the maturation process. To this end, bovine oocytes aspirated from ovarian follicles were matured in vitro. Eight hours after the onset of maturation the cumulus cells were removed, and the oocytes either placed back in the original medium or cultured further in fresh maturation medium. In all experiments, COCs/oocytes were matured for 23 h in M199 supplemented with 0.05 IU FSH and penicillin/streptomycin. All experiments were performed in triplicate, with 35 to 45 COCs per group. Student’s t-test was used for a paired comparison. Denudation after 8 h and return to the same maturation medium had no effect on the cleavage rate (93%) compared with culture without denudation (90.7%). Only if the oocytes were transferred to fresh medium did the cleavage rate decrease slightly (75.4%; P = 0.038). By contrast, blastocyst formation was reduced nearly four times if COCs were denuded before being returned to the medium, compared with controls (14% v. 50.8%; P < 0.001). If the oocytes were transferred to fresh medium after denudation, very few blastocysts resulted (0.9%; P < 0.001). In a second study, oocytes denuded immediately after removal from the follicle were matured in the absence or presence of cumulus cells in a Corning® Transwell® system. Culturing denuded oocytes in the presence of cumulus cells resulted in similar cleavage rates (83.5%) to control conditions (84.8%). However, blastocyst formation was markedly lower (4.3%) than for controls (29.6%; P = 0.003). We conclude that COCs secrete substances during the first 8 h of maturation that are beneficial for oocyte acquisition of developmental competence. Moreover, intimate contact between the cumulus cells and oocyte is essential.

This work was supported by EU FP7 EpiHealthNet, PITN-GA-2012–317146.

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