During folliculogenesis, oocytes grow and acquire developmental competence in a mutually dependent relationship with their adjacent somatic cells. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) plays an essential and well-established role in the differentiation of somatic follicular cells, but its function in the development of the oocyte has still not been elucidated. We report here that oocytes of Fshb–/– mice, which cannot produce FSH, grow at the same rate and reach the same size as those of wild-type mice. Consistent with this observation, the granulosa cells of Fshb–/– mice express the normal quantity of mRNA encoding Kit ligand, which has been implicated in oocyte growth. Oocytes of Fshb–/– mice also accumulate normal quantities of cyclin B1 and CDK1 proteins and mitochondrial DNA. Moreover, they acquire the ability to complete meiotic maturation in vitro and undergo transition from non-surrounded nucleolus to surrounded nucleolus. However, these events of late oocyte development are significantly delayed. Following in vitro maturation and fertilization, only a small number of embryos derived from oocytes of Fshb–/– mice reach the blastocyst stage. Administration of equine chorionic gonadotropin, which provides FSH activity, 48 h before in vitro maturation increases the number of blastocysts obtained subsequently. These results indicate that FSH is not absolutely required for oocyte development in vivo but that this process occurs more rapidly in its presence. We suggest that FSH may coordinate the development of the germline and somatic compartments of the follicle, ensuring that ovulation releases a developmentally competent egg.
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Vol. 87 • No. 1