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Microsc Res Tech. 2006 Jun;69(6):396-407.

From oogonia to mature oocytes: inactivation of the maternal centrosome in humans.

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  • 1Monash Institute of Medical Research, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.


The fine structure of human oogonia and growing oocytes has been reviewed in fetal and adult ovaries. Preovulatory maturation and the ultrastructure of stimulated oocytes from the germinal vesicle (GV) stage to metaphase II (MII) stage are also documented. Oogonia have large nuclei, scanty cytoplasm with complex mitochondria. During folliculogenesis, follicle cell processes establish desmosomes and deep gap junctions at the surface of growing oocytes, which are retracted during the final stages of maturation. The zona pellucida is secreted in secondary follicles. Growing oocytes have mitochondria, Golgi, rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER), ribosomes, lysosomes, and lipofuscin bodies, often associated with Balbiani bodies and have nuclei with reticulated nucleoli. Oocytes from antral follicles show numerous surface microvilli and cortical granules (CGs) separated from the oolemma by a band of microfilaments. The CGs are evidently secreted by Golgi membranes. The GV oocytes have peripheral Golgi complexes associated with a single layer of CGs close to the oolemma. They have many lysosomes, and nuclei with dense compact nucleoli. GV breakdown occurs by disorganization of the nuclear envelope and the oocyte enters a transient metaphase I followed by MII, when it is arrested and ovulated. Maturation of oocytes in vitro follows the same pattern of meiosis seen in preovulatory oocytes. The general organization of the human oocyte conforms to that of most other mammals but has some unique features. The MII oocyte has the basic cellular organelles such as mitochondria, smooth endoplasmic reticulum, microfilaments, and microtubules, while Golgi, RER, lysosomes, multivesicular, residual and lipofuscin bodies are very rare. It neither has yolk nor lipid inclusions. Its surface has few microvilli, and 1-3 layers of CGs, aligned beneath the oolemma. Special reference has been made to the reduction and inactivation of the maternal centrosome during oogenesis. The MII spindle, often oriented perpendicular to the oocyte surface, is barrel-shaped, anastral and lacks centrioles. Osmiophilic centrosomes are not demonstrable in human eggs, since the maternal centrosome is nonfunctional. However, oogonia and growing oocytes have typical centrioles, similar to those of somatic cells. The sperm centrosome activates the egg and organizes the sperm aster and mitotic spindles of the embryo, after fertilization.

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