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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Oocytes prevent cumulus cell apoptosis by maintaining a morphogenic paracrine gradient of bone morphogenetic proteins.

Paracrine factors secreted by the oocyte regulate a broad range of cumulus cell functions. Characteristically, cumulus cells have a low incidence of apoptosis and we proposed that this is due to oocyte-secreted factors acting in an anti-apoptotic manner. Bovine cumulus-oocyte complexes (COC) were aspirated from abattoir-derived ovaries and oocytectomized (OOX) by microsurgical removal of the oocyte. OOX were treated with doses of either denuded oocytes (DO) or various growth factors for 24 hours (+/- rFSH; 0.1 IU/ml). Proportions of apoptotic cumulus cells were assessed using TUNEL and laser confocal scanning microscopy followed by image analysis. Quantification of Bcl-2 and Bax proteins in OOX was undertaken by western analysis. Oocyte removal led to a significant increase in cumulus cell apoptosis compared with COC controls (35% versus 9% TUNEL positive, respectively; P<0.001). Levels of OOX apoptosis were significantly reversed (P<0.001) in a dose-dependent manner when co-cultured with oocytes. Furthermore, the anti-apoptotic effect of oocyte-secreted factors followed a gradient from the site of the oocyte(s). Growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) had no significant effect on cumulus cell apoptosis. By contrast, cumulus cell apoptosis was significantly (P<0.001) reduced by bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP) 15, 6 or 7. Accordingly, levels of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 were high in OOX+DO and OOX+BMP15 and low with OOX+GDF9 or OOX alone, whereas the reverse was observed for pro-apoptotic Bax. DO, BMP15 and BMP6 were also able to protect cumulus cells from undergoing apoptosis induced by staurosporine. FSH partially prevented apoptosis in all treatment groups (P<0.001). Follistatin and a BMP6 neutralizing antibody, which antagonized the anti-apoptotic effects of BMP15 and BMP6, respectively, whether alone or combined, blocked approximately 50% of the anti-apoptotic actions of oocytes. These results are the first to demonstrate that oocyte-secreted factors, and particularly BMP15 and BMP6, maintain the low incidence of cumulus cell apoptosis by establishing a localized gradient of bone morphogenetic proteins.[1]


  1. Oocytes prevent cumulus cell apoptosis by maintaining a morphogenic paracrine gradient of bone morphogenetic proteins. Hussein, T.S., Froiland, D.A., Amato, F., Thompson, J.G., Gilchrist, R.B. J. Cell. Sci. (2005) [Pubmed]
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