Cortical mechanics and myosin-II abnormalities associated with postovulatory aging: Implications for functional defects in aged eggs

Amelia C.L. Mackenzie, Diane D. Kyle, Lauren A. McGinnis, Hyo J. Lee, Nathalia Aldana, Douglas N. Robinson, Janice P. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Study hypothesis: Cellular aging of the egg following ovulation, also known as post-ovulatory aging, is associated with aberrant cortical mechanics and actomyosin cytoskeleton functions. Study finding: Post-ovulatory aging is associated with dysfunction of non-muscle myosin-II, and pharmacologically induced myosin-II dysfunction produces some of the same deficiencies observed in aged eggs. What is known already: Reproductive success is reduced with delayed fertilization and when copulation or insemination occurs at increased times after ovulation. Post-ovulatory aged eggs have several abnormalities in the plasma membrane and cortex, including reduced egg membrane receptivity to sperm, aberrant sperm-induced cortical remodeling and formation of fertilization cones at the site of sperm entry, and reduced ability to establish a membrane block to prevent polyspermic fertilization. Study design, samples/materials, methods: Ovulated mouse eggs were collected at 21-22 h post-human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) (aged eggs) or at 13-14 h post-hCG (young eggs), or young eggs were treated with the myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) inhibitor ML-7, to test the hypothesis that disruption of myosin-II function could mimic some of the effects of post-ovulatory aging. Eggs were subjected to various analyses. Cytoskeletal proteins in eggs and parthenogenesiswere assessed using fluorescence microscopy, with further analysis of cytoskeletal proteins in immunoblotting experiments. Cortical tension was measured through micropipette aspiration assays. Egg membrane receptivity to sperm wasassessed in in vitro fertilization (IVF) assays.Membrane topography wasexamined by low-vacuum scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Main results and the role of chance: Aged eggs have decreased levels and abnormal localizations of phosphorylatedmyosin-II regulatory light chain (pMRLC; P = 0.0062). Cortical tension, which is mediated in part by myosin-II, is reduced in aged mouse eggs when compared with young eggs, by ~40% in the cortical region where the metaphase II spindle is sequestered and by ~50% in the domain to which sperm bind and fuse (P < 0.0001). Aging-associated parthenogenesis is partly rescued by treating eggs with a zinc ionophore (P = 0.003), as is parthenogenesis induced by inhibition of mitogen-activated kinase (MAPK) 3/1 [also known as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2] or MLCK. Inhibition of MLCK with ML-7 also results in effects that mimic those of post-ovulatory aging: fertilized ML-7-treated eggs show both impaired fertilization and increased extents of polyspermy, and ML-7-treated young eggs have several membrane abnormalities that are shared by postovulatory aged eggs. Limitations, reasons for caution: These studies were done with mouse oocytes, and it remains to be fully determined how these findings from mouse oocytes would compare with other species. For studies using methods not amenable to analysis of large sample sizes and data are limited to what images one can capture (e.g. SEM), data should be interpreted conservatively. Wider implications of the findings: These data provide insights into causes of reproductive failures at later post-copulatory times. Large scale data: Not applicable. Study funding and competing interest(s): This project was supported by R01 HD037696 and R01 HD045671 from the NIH to J.P.E. Cortical tension studies were supported by R01 GM66817 to D.N.R. The authors declare there are no financial conflicts of interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-409
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 16 2016


  • Actin
  • Aged oocyte
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Fertilization
  • MAPK
  • Myosin-II
  • Oocyte aging
  • Polyspermy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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