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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018 Dec 5;477:29-38. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2018.05.011. Epub 2018 May 15.

MicroRNA-21 up-regulates metalloprotease by down-regulating TIMP3 during cumulus cell-oocyte complex in vitro maturation.

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College of Life Science and Engineering, Foshan University, Guangdong, China; Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address:


Cumulus cells and the remodeling of their extracellular matrix around oocytes are essential for oocyte maturation and ovulation in the ovary. An important extracellular metalloprotease, ADAMTS1, and its partner VERSICAN, mediate essential cumulus-oocyte-complex (COC) structural remodeling. However, how the expression of these proteinases is regulated during oocyte maturation is unclear. Here we report that both ADAMTS1 and VERSICAN significantly increased in porcine cumulus cells during COC in vitro maturation (IVM). Interestingly, one of the tissue inhibitors of the metalloproteinase family member, TIMP3, was found to be significantly decreased in cumulus cells during this process. Down-regulation of TIMP3 using specific small interfering RNA decreased TIMP3 expression, while increased the levels of ADAMTS1 and VERSICAN, suggesting an inverse relationship between TIMP3, the metalloprotease, and the breakdown product of its substrate. MiR-21 significantly increased in cumulus cells during COC maturation. Knockdown of miR-21 in cumulus cells during COC maturation resulted in increased TIMP3 and decreased ADAMTS1 and VERSICAN expression, which is accompanied by a decrease in cumulus cell expansion and the ratio of oocytes that reached MII stage. In contrast, over-expression of miR-21 decreased TIMP3 and increased ADAMTS1, and enhanced cumulus cell expansion and oocyte maturation. Moreover, in silico prediction revealed that a miR-21 binding site is present at the 3-untranslated region (3-UTR) of the TIMP3 mRNA, which was further confirmed to be the target site of miR-21 by luciferase gene reporter assays. Our findings revealed that miR-21 promotes cumulus expansion and oocyte maturation via down-regulating TIMP3, and subsequent increase of ADAMTS1 and VERSICAN during in vitro COC maturation.


ADAMTS1; Cumulus expansion; Oocyte maturation.; TIMP3; VERSICAN; microRNA-21


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