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Mol Biol Cell. 2010 Sep 15;21(18):3182-92. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E10-01-0066. Epub 2010 Jul 21.

Cortical mechanics and meiosis II completion in mammalian oocytes are mediated by myosin-II and Ezrin-Radixin-Moesin (ERM) proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Cell division is inherently mechanical, with cell mechanics being a critical determinant governing the cell shape changes that accompany progression through the cell cycle. The mechanical properties of symmetrically dividing mitotic cells have been well characterized, whereas the contribution of cellular mechanics to the strikingly asymmetric divisions of female meiosis is very poorly understood. Progression of the mammalian oocyte through meiosis involves remodeling of the cortex and proper orientation of the meiotic spindle, and thus we hypothesized that cortical tension and stiffness would change through meiotic maturation and fertilization to facilitate and/or direct cellular remodeling. This work shows that tension in mouse oocytes drops about sixfold during meiotic maturation from prophase I to metaphase II and then increases ∼1.6-fold upon fertilization. The metaphase II egg is polarized, with tension differing ∼2.5-fold between the cortex over the meiotic spindle and the opposite cortex, suggesting that meiotic maturation is accompanied by assembly of a cortical domain with stiffer mechanics as part of the process to achieve asymmetric cytokinesis. We further demonstrate that actin, myosin-II, and the ERM (Ezrin/Radixin/Moesin) family of proteins are enriched in complementary cortical domains and mediate cellular mechanics in mammalian eggs. Manipulation of actin, myosin-II, and ERM function alters tension levels and also is associated with dramatic spindle abnormalities with completion of meiosis II after fertilization. Thus, myosin-II and ERM proteins modulate mechanical properties in oocytes, contributing to cell polarity and to completion of meiosis.

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