Extracellular Matrix of the Cumulus-Oocyte Complex
The mammalian oocyte is surrounded by several layers of cumulus granulosa cells that nurture the oocyte during its development and actively participate in the process of ovulation. After the ovulatory luteinizing hormone surge, a distinctive program of extracellular matrix production is initiated in the cumulus-oocyte complex. This process known as cumulus expansion or mucification involves synthesis of a backbone of long hyaluronan oligosaccharide chains that are cross-linked by a complex of hyaluronan binding cell surface and extracellular matrix proteins and proteoglycans. Active components of the cumulus matrix are synthesized directly by cumulus cells under the control of endocrine- and oocyte-derived factors, secreted by mural granulosa cells, or enter the follicle in blood plasma. Appropriate composition and assembly of the cumulus matrix is essential for ovulation, efficient passage of the oocyte through the oviduct, and for fertilization. This review describes the critical components and their functional roles in the cumulus matrix, as well as the molecular regulation of cumulus matrix gene expression.
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