Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is a family of Ser/Thr protein kinases that are widely distributed in eukaryotic cells. Studies in the last decade revealed that MAPK cascade plays pivotal roles in regulating the meiotic cell cycle progression of oocytes. In mammalian species, activation of MAPK in cumulus cells is necessary for gonadotropin-induced meiotic resumption of oocytes, while MAPK activation is not required for spontaneous meiotic resumption. After germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD), MAPK is involved in the regulation of microtubule organization and meiotic spindle assembly. The activation of this kinase is essential for the maintenance of metaphase II arrest, while its inactivation is a prerequisite for pronuclear formation after fertilization or parthenogenetic activation. MAPK cascade interacts extensively with other protein kinases such as maturation-promoting factor, protein kinase A, protein kinase C, and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, as well as with protein phosphatases in oocyte meiotic cell cycle regulation. The cross talk between MAPK cascade and other protein kinases is discussed. The review also addresses unsolved problems and discusses future directions.
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