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Reproduction. 2012 Aug;144(2):177-85. doi: 10.1530/REP-12-0113. Epub 2012 May 28.

Regulation of mitochondrial DNA accumulation during oocyte growth and meiotic maturation in the mouse.

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Department of Biology, Centre for the Study of Reproduction, McGill University, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


Oocytes accumulate an enormous quantity of mitochondrial (mt) DNA, and an insufficient amount of mtDNA may underlie some cases of poor oocyte quality leading to infertility. Little is known, however, about the mechanisms that govern the timing and regulation of mtDNA accumulation during oogenesis. We report, through analysis of the mtDNA content of individual oocytes of the mouse, that mtDNA accumulates steadily during oocyte growth to reach a value of ~175 000 copies per cell. MtDNA content ceases to increase once oocytes reach full size and remains unchanged during meiotic maturation. To test whether mtDNA accumulation depends on oocyte growth, we inhibited growth in vitro in two ways - by exposing complexes comprising partially grown oocytes enclosed by granulosa cells to a chemical inhibitor of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase signaling pathway and by removing the surrounding granulosa cells from partially grown oocytes. Under both conditions, the oocytes fail to grow, but mtDNA accumulation is unaffected, indicating that the two processes can be mechanistically uncoupled. Quantitative analysis of the mRNAs encoding proteins required for mtDNA replication revealed that Polg (Polga) (polymerase-γ, α-subunit), Polg2 (Polgb), and Tfam (transcription factor A, mitochondrial) increase during oocyte growth but then decrease after fully grown oocytes become transcriptionally silent as indicated by the non-surrounded nucleolus-to-surrounded nucleolus transition. Thus, there is a correlation between the decline in the quantity of mRNAs encoding mtDNA replication factors in fully grown oocytes and the arrest of mtDNA accumulation in these cells, suggesting that the two events may be causally linked.

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