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Polyspermy is fairly common during porcine in vitro fertilisation (IVF), perhaps due to incomplete in vitro oocyte maturation (IVM). Porcine cumulus cells (CCs) layered around the oocyte produce large amounts of extracellular hyaluronan (HA) when forming an expanding cell cloud during the last phase of oocyte maturation. The specific actions of HA are mediated via HA-binding proteins (HABPs), such as CD44, which act as receptors. In this study using immunocytochemistry and western blotting we investigated the localisation of CD44 in CCs obtained from in vivo-matured pig cumulus–oocyte complexes (COCs) and compared it with that in CCs from immature COCs and of COCs subjected to IVM and IVF procedures. Immunolabelling of CD44 was absent or very weak in CCs from immature COCs but strongly present on the surface of the CCs obtained from in vivo, displaying a similar localisation in the in vitromatured COCs. In the latter, the labelling decreased but did not disappear in CCs 4 h after sperm co-incubation during IVF. Immunoblotting detected bands of between 73 and 88 kDa, corresponding to CD44, in the protein extract from in vivo CCs collected immediately prior to, or following spontaneous ovulation. The in vitro-matured CCs, however, presented bands ranging from 81 kDa to 88 kDa. Also, the bands found in the in vivo-matured CCs showed a larger variation of intensity and migration among animals than did the batches of in vitro-matured CCs. No CD44 band was detected on aliquots of the frozenthawed boar spermatozoa used for IVF. The results clearly demonstrate that the specific HA receptor CD44 is present in expanding CCs of in vivo-matured pig COCs, in relation to increasing amounts of inter-CC HA. The subtle differences in molecular weight and migration ability observed between in vivo and in vitro samples may relate to differences in glycosylation and thus explain differences in HA-binding ability, of consequence for optimising in vitro culture conditions.
Digital Object Identifier:10.1017/S0967199402004057
Published with permission from the copyright holder. This is the institute's copy, as published in Zygote, Nov 2002, Volume 10, Issue 4, Pages 317-326.
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