The fully grown mammalian oocyte is tightly attached to its extracellular matrix shell, the zona pellucida (ZP), but the oocyte detaches from the ZP shortly after ovulation is signaled. The mechanism by which the oocyte detaches from the ZP is unknown. Because ZP proteins are initially secreted as transmembrane proteins, we hypothesized that attachment of the oocyte to the ZP is mediated by transmembrane ZP proteins and that detachment occurs when these proteins are cleaved by peptidases. To identify potential candidates for the type of peptidase, we used mouse oocyte transcriptome data sets to identify candidate peptidases localized to the exterior of the oocyte. Screening with a set of small molecule inhibitors that broadly target the families of peptidases represented by the candidates, we found that only inhibitors of the M10 and M12 families of metallopeptidases prevented detachment. Using more selective inhibitors indicated that detachment was prevented by an inhibitor, GI254023X, developed to be selective for ADAM10 in the M12 family but not by those considered selective for the M10 family or for other M12 metallopeptidases expressed in oocytes. Using an antibody that binds to an epitope just distal to the likely cleavage site of murine ZP3 showed that this site was gradually lost from the oocyte surface during the period when detachment occurs and that inhibiting metallopeptidase activity prevented the loss of this epitope. Taken together, these results indicate that detachment of the oocyte from the ZP is mediated by a metallopeptidase.
Detachment of the mouse oocyte from its rigid extracellular matrix shell, the zona pellucida, which occurs near the beginning of meiotic maturation, requires metallopeptidase activity.