Regulation of human oocyte maturation in vivo during the final maturation of follicles

J. Cadenas, L. C. Poulsen, D. Nikiforov, M. L. Grøndahl, A. Kumar, K. Bahnu, A. L.M. Englund, J. Malm, G. Marko-Varga, I. Pla, A. Sanchez, S. E. Pors, C. Yding Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


STUDY QUESTION: Which substances and signal transduction pathways are potentially active downstream to the effect of FSH and LH in the regulation of human oocyte maturation in vivo? SUMMARY ANSWER: The regulation of human oocyte maturation appears to be a multifactorial process in which several different signal transduction pathways are active. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Many studies in animal species have provided insight into the mechanisms that govern the final maturation of oocytes. Currently, these studies have identified several different mechanisms downstream to the effects of FSH and LH. Some of the identified mechanisms include the regulation of cAMP/cGMP levels in oocytes involving C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF)-related peptides such as amphiregulin (AREG) and/or epiregulin (EREG), effect of TGF-β family members including growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) and morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15), activins/inhibins, follicular fluid meiosis activating sterol (FF-MAS), the growth factor midkine (MDK), and several others. However, to what extent these pathways and mechanisms are active in humans in vivo is unknown. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: This prospective cohort study included 50 women undergoing fertility treatment in a standard antagonist protocol at a university hospital affiliated fertility clinic in 2016-2018. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: We evaluated the substances and signalling pathways potentially affecting human oocyte maturation in follicular fluid (FF) and granulosa cells (GCs) collected at five time points during the final maturation of follicles. Using ELISA measurement and proteomic profiling of FF and whole genome gene expression in GC, the following substances and their signal transduction pathways were collectively evaluated: CNP, the EGF family, inhibin-A, inhibin-B, activins, FF-MAS, MDK, GDF9, and BMP15. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: All the evaluated substances and signal transduction pathways are potentially active in the regulation of human oocyte maturation in vivo except for GDF9/BMP15 signalling. In particular, AREG, inhibins, and MDK were significantly upregulated during the first 12-17 h after initiating the final maturation of follicles and were measured at significantly higher concentrations than previously reported. Additionally, the genes regulating FF-MAS synthesis and metabolism were significantly controlled in favour of accumulation during the first 12-17 h. In contrast, concentrations of CNP were low and did not change during the process of final maturation of follicles, and concentrations of GDF9 and BMP15 were much lower than reported in small antral follicles, suggesting a less pronounced influence from these substances. LARGE SCALE DATA: None. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Although GC and cumulus cells have many similar features, it is a limitation of the current study that information for the corresponding cumulus cells is not available. However, we seldom recovered a cumulus-oocyte complex during the follicle aspiration from 0 to 32 h. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Delineating the mechanisms governing the regulation of human oocyte maturation in vivo advances the possibility of developing a platform for IVM that, as for most other mammalian species, results in healthy offspring with good efficacy. Mimicking the intrafollicular conditions during oocyte maturation in vivo in small culture droplets during IVM may enhance oocyte nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation. The primary outlook for such a method is, in the context of fertility preservation, to augment the chances of achieving biological children after a cancer treatment by subjecting oocytes from small antral follicles to IVM. Provided that aspiration of oocytes from small antral follicles in vivo can be developed with good efficacy, IVM may be applied to infertile patients on a larger scale and can provide a cheap alternative to conventional IVF treatment with ovarian stimulation. Successful IVM has the potential to change current established techniques for infertility treatment. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This research was supported by the University Hospital of Copenhagen, Rigshospitalet, the Independent Research Fund Denmark (grant number 0134-00448), and the Interregional EU-sponsored ReproUnion network. There are no conflicts of interest to be declared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-700
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cell and Molecular Biology

Free keywords

  • AREG
  • CNP
  • EREG
  • FF-MAS
  • final maturation of follicles
  • GDF9/BMP15
  • human oocyte maturation
  • inhibin/activin
  • midkine


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