The oocyte plays a key role in follicular development. At all stages of follicular development, oocytes interact with surrounding granulosa cells and promote their differentiation into the types of cells that support further oocyte growth and developmental competence. These interactions suggest the existence of an oocyte-granulosa cell regulatory loop that includes both secreted proteins and cell surface receptors on both cell types. Factors involved in the regulatory loop will therefore contain a signal sequence, which can be used to identify them through a signal sequence trap (SST). A screen of an oocyte SST library identified three classes of oocyte-expressed sequences: known mouse genes, sequences homologous to known mammalian genes, and novel sequences of unknown function. Many of the recovered genes may have roles in the oocyte-granulosa cell regulatory loop. For several of the known mouse genes, new roles in follicular development are implied by identification of their expression, for the first time, in the oocyte. The future characterization of novel sequences may lead to the identification of novel proteins participating in the regulatory loop.
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