Evolutionary, proteomic, and experimental investigations suggest the extracellular matrix of cumulus cells mediates fertilization outcomes

Sara Keeble, Renée C. Firman, Brice A.J. Sarver, Nathan L. Clark, Leigh W. Simmons, Matthew D. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Studies of fertilization biology often focus on sperm and egg interactions. However, before gametes interact, mammalian sperm must pass through the cumulus layer; in mice, this consists of several thousand cells tightly glued together with hyaluronic acid and other proteins. To better understand the role of cumulus cells and their extracellular matrix, we perform proteomic experiments on cumulus oophorus complexes (COCs) in house mice (Mus musculus), producing over 24,000 mass spectra to identify 711 proteins. Seven proteins known to stabilize hyaluronic acid and the extracellular matrix were especially abundant (using spectral counts as an indirect proxy for abundance). Through comparative evolutionary analyses, we show that three of these evolve rapidly, a classic signature of genes that influence fertilization rate. Some of the selected sites overlap regions of the protein known to impact function. In a follow-up experiment, we compared COCs from females raised in two different social environments. Female mice raised in the presence of multiple males produced COCs that were smaller and more resistant to dissociation by hyaluronidase compared to females raised in the presence of a single male, consistent with a previous study that demonstrated such females produced COCs that were more resistant to fertilization. Although cumulus cells are often thought of as enhancers of fertilization, our evolutionary, proteomic, and experimental investigations implicate their extracellular matrix as a potential mediator of fertilization outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1055
Number of pages13
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Volume105
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021

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