Recently, we have found that the nitrate/nitrite concentrations in preovulatory follicles significantly decrease after hCG injection and that inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) plays a main role in the decrease of the intrafollicular nitric oxide (NO) concentration. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the role of NO on oocyte meiotic maturation and to consider the physiological means of the decrease in intrafollicular NO concentration. Immature rats received 15 IU of eCG, and ovaries were removed under ether anesthesia 48 h later. Each ovary was bluntly divided into five or six pieces containing from four to seven preovulatory follicles under the microscope and then incubated with hCG, aminoguanidine (AG; an iNOS inhibitor), or S-nitroso-l-acetyl penicillamine (SNAP; an NO donor) for 5 h. After incubation, preovulatory follicles were punctured, and germinal vesicle breakdown (GVBD) was observed. Also, cGMP concentrations in these follicles were measured. Next, denuded oocytes were recovered from preovulatory follicles at 48 h after injection of 15 IU of eCG and incubated with SNAP with or without ferrous hemoglobin. Every 30 min up to 12 h, GVBD was observed. Both AG and hCG promoted GVBD, and SNAP prevented this effect. In addition, AG decreased intrafollicular cGMP levels, and the concomitant addition of SNAP prevented this decrease. Finally, SNAP dose-dependently inhibited GVBD in denuded oocyte, and this effect of SNAP was reversed by the addition of hemoglobin. We conclude that the iNOS-NO-(cGMP) axis may play an important role in oocyte meiotic maturation.
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