Mammalian oocytes are surrounded by numerous layers of cumulus cells, and the loss of gap junctional communication in the outer layers of cumulus cells induces meiotic resumption in oocytes. In this study, we investigated the dynamic changes in the gap junctional protein connexin-43 in cumulus cells during the meiotic resumption of porcine oocytes. The amount of connexin-43 in all layers of cumulus cells recovered from cumulus-oocyte complexes was increased after 4-h cultivation. However, at 12-h cultivation, the positive signal for connexin-43 immunoreactivity was markedly reduced in the outer layers of cumulus cells. When these reductions of connexin-43 were blocked by protein kinase C (PKC) or phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase inhibitor, networks of filamentous bivalents (i.e., advanced chromosomal status) were undetectable in the germinal vesicle of the oocyte. After 28-h cultivation, when the majority of oocytes were reaching the metaphase I (MI) stage, the connexin-43 in the inner layers of cumulus cells was phosphorylated, regardless of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase activation. These results suggest that the initiation of meiotic resumption, namely, the formation of networks of filamentous bivalents in germinal vesicle, is associated with the reduction of gap junctional protein connexin-43 in the outer layers of cumulus cells via the PKC and/or PI 3-kinase pathway. Moreover, the connexin-43 in the inner layers of cumulus cells is phosphorylated during meiotic progression beyond the MI stage, regardless of MAP kinase activation in cumulus cells surrounding the oocyte.
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