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Kit ligand promotes first polar body extrusion of mouse preovulatory oocytes

Yinghui Ye12*, Kazuhiro Kawamura1, Mitsue Sasaki1, Nanami Kawamura13, Peter Groenen4, Maarten D Sollewijn Gelpke4, Rami Rauch5, Aaron JW Hsueh5 and Toshinobu Tanaka1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Akita University School of Medicine, Akita, Japan

2 Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, Women's Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Zhejiang, PR China

3 Department of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Akita University School of Medicine, Akita, Japan

4 Organon, Oss, the Netherlands

5 Division of Reproductive Biology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2009, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-7-26

Published: 3 April 2009



Shortly after stimulation by the preovulatory surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), oocytes arrested at the late prophase I resume meiosis characterized by germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), chromosome condensation, and extrusion of the first polar body in preparation for fertilization and early embryonic development. However, oocytes express few or no LH receptors and are insensitive to direct LH stimulation. Thus, factors released by granulosa or theca cells expect to convey the LH stimuli to oocytes. To identify candidate ligand-receptor pairs potentially involved in the process of oocyte maturation, we performed DNA microarray analyses of ovarian transcripts in mice and identified Kit ligand (Kitl) as an ovarian factor stimulated by the LH/hCG surge. The purpose of this study is to investigate the roles of KITL in the nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation of preovulatory mouse oocytes.


The levels of Kitl and c-kit transcripts in mouse ovaries and isolated ovarian cells were determined by real-time RT-PCR, while expression of KITL protein was examined by immunohistochemistry. Follicle culture, cumulus-oocyte complexes (COC) and denuded oocytes culture were used to evaluate the effect of KITL on mouse oocyte nuclear maturation. To assess the effect of KITL treatment on the cytoplasmic maturation of preovulatory oocytes, we performed in vitro maturation of oocytes followed by in vitro fertilization.


Major increase of Kitl transcripts in granulosa cells and mouse ovaries, and predominant expression of c-kit in preovulatory oocytes were identified by real-time RT-PCR. Predominant expression of KITL protein was found in granulosa cells of preovulatory and small antral follicles at 4 h after hCG treatment. In vitro cultures demonstrated that treatment with KITL enhanced first polar body extrusion in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, treatment of COC with KITL enhanced first polar body extrusion with increase in cyclin B1 synthesis which is important for the progression of meiotic maturation after GVBD. In contrast, treatment of cultured preovulatory follicles with KITL did not affect GVBD and KITL has no effect on cytoplasmic maturation of preovulatory oocytes.


Our findings suggest potential paracrine roles of KITL in the nuclear maturation of preovulatory oocytes by promoting first polar body extrusion.