The resumption of oocyte meiosis is triggered by a number of 4,4-dimethylsterols termed meiosis-activating sterols (MAS). The levels of meiosis active (follicular fluid [FF]-MAS and bull testes [T]-MAS) and inactive (lanosterol) 4,4-dimethylsterols, free cholesterol, and progesterone were determined in gonadotropin-primed prepubertal mouse ovaries in vivo by high-performance liquid chromatography. Ovaries responded to an ovulatory stimulation by increasing their content of 4,4-dimethylsterols but not of free cholesterol. The ovarian 4,4-dimethylsterol response was followed with regard to time and dose-response to the gonadotropins and the resumption of meiosis was evaluated using histologic sections. All 4,4-dimethylsterols accumulated in a time-dependent manner in gonadotropin-primed mice after a subsequent stimulation with hCG. The peak of 4,4-dimethylsterol accumulation appeared postmeiotically but coincided roughly with ovulation, and the resumption of meiosis was triggered when the intraovarian level of MAS was <20% of its maximum. The ovarian accumulation of progesterone preceded the 4,4-dimethylsterol accumulation. The FF-MAS accumulation displayed a dose-response maximum with respect to hCG, and a variation of the follicular priming regime revealed that, in contrast to progesterone production, 4,4-dimethylsterol accumulation is dependent on previous follicular growth beyond the gonadotropin-dependent stage. The FF-MAS was not liberated from esterified stores during the accumulatory response and appeared to be synthesized de novo from a precursor (or precursors) metabolically upstream to lanosterol. The data remain inconsistent with a model in which MAS is regarded as the physiological trigger of meiosis. The 4,4-dimethylsterol accumulation is suggested to influence maturation processes by affecting membrane sterol composition.
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