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Endocrinology. 2009 Jul;150(7):3345-52. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1449. Epub 2009 Apr 2.

RhoA/Rho kinase signaling in the cumulus mediates extracellular matrix assembly.

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Department of Physiological Chemistry, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University, Yoshida, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


Cumulus cells surround the oocyte and regulate the production and assembly of the extracellular matrix (ECM) around the cumulus-oocyte complex for its timely interaction with sperm in the oviduct. We recently found that C-C chemokines such as CCL2, CCL7, and CCL9 are produced and stimulate integrin-mediated ECM assembly in the postovulatory cumulus to protect eggs and that prostaglandin E(2)-EP2 signaling in the cumulus cells facilitates fertilization by suppressing this chemokine signaling, which otherwise results in fertilization failure by preventing sperm penetration through the cumulus ECM. However, it remains unknown as to what mechanisms underlie chemokine-induced cumulus ECM assembly. Here we report that inhibition of EP2 signaling or addition of CCL7 augments RhoA activation and induces the surface accumulation of integrin and the contraction of cumulus cells. Enhanced surface accumulation of integrin then stimulates the formation and assembly of fibronectin fibrils as well as induces cumulus ECM resistance to hyaluronidase and sperm penetration. These changes in the cumulus ECM as well as cell contraction are relieved by the addition of Y27632 or blebbistatin. These results suggest that chemokines induce integrin engagement to the ECM and consequent ECM remodeling through the RhoA/Rho kinase/actomyosin pathway, making the cumulus ECM barrier resistant to sperm penetration. Based on these results, we propose that prostaglandin E(2)-EP2 signaling negatively regulates chemokine-induced Rho/ROCK signaling in cumulus cells for successful fertilization.

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