Vertebrate eggs are arrested at metaphase of meiosis II, a state classically known as cytostatic factor arrest. Maintenance of this arrest until the time of fertilization and then fertilization-induced exit from metaphase II are crucial for reproductive success. Another key aspect of this meiotic arrest and exit is regulation of the metaphase II spindle, which must be appropriately localized adjacent to the egg cortex during metaphase II and then progress into successful asymmetric cytokinesis to produce the second polar body. This study examined the mitogen-activated protein kinases MAPK3 and MAPK1 (also known as ERK1/2) as regulators of these two related aspects of mammalian egg biology, specifically testing whether this MAPK pathway affected myosin-II function and whether myosin-II perturbation would produce some of the same effects as MAPK pathway perturbation. Inhibition of the MEK1/2-MAPK pathway with U0126 leads to reduced levels of phosphorylated myosin-regulatory light chain (pMRLC) and causes a reduction in cortical tension, effects that are mimicked by treatment with the myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) inhibitor ML-7. These data indicate that one mechanism by which the MAPK pathway acts in eggs is by affecting myosin-II function. We further show that MAPK or MLCK inhibition induces loss of normal cortical spindle localization or parthenogenetic egg activation. This parthenogenesis is dependent on cytosolic and extracellular calcium and can be rescued by hyperloading eggs with zinc, suggesting that these effects of inhibition of MLCK or the MAPK pathway are linked with dysregulation of ion homeostasis.
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Vol. 92 • No. 6