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Syst Biol Reprod Med. 2012 Apr;58(2):88-101. doi: 10.3109/19396368.2012.656217. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Developmental competence in oocytes and cumulus cells: candidate genes and networks.

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  • 1School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.


Common aspects of infertility can be seen across several species. In humans, dairy cows, and mares there is only a 25-35% chance of producing a live offspring after a single insemination, whether natural or artificial. Oocyte quality and subsequent embryo development can be affected by factors such as nutrition, hormonal regulation, and environmental influence. The objective of this study was to identify genes expressed in oocytes and/or cumulus cells, across a diverse range of species, which may be linked to the ability an oocyte has to develop following fertilization. Performing a meta-analysis on previously published microarray data on various models of oocyte and embryo quality allowed for the identification of 56 candidate genes associated with oocyte quality across several species, 4 of which were identified in the cumulus cells that surround the oocyte. Twenty-one potential biomarkers were associated with increased competence and 35 potential biomarkers were associated with decreased competence. The upregulation of Metap2, and the decrease of multiple genes linked to mRNA and protein synthesis in models of competence, highlights the importance of de novo protein synthesis and its regulation for successful oocyte maturation and subsequent development. The negative regulation of Wnt signaling has emerged in human, monkey, bovine, and mouse models of oocyte competence. Atrx expression was linked to decreased competence in both oocytes and cumulus cells. Biological networks and transcription factor regulation associated with increased and decreased competence were also identified. These genes could potentially act as biomarkers of oocyte quality or as pharmacological targets for manipulation in order to improve oocyte developmental potential.

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