Unfertilized frog eggs die by apoptosis following meiotic exit

Research Center for Environmental Genomics, Kobe University, Rokko dai 1-1, Nada, Kobe, Japan.
BMC Cell Biology (Impact Factor: 2.34). 12/2011; 12(1):56. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2121-12-56
Source: PubMed


A characteristic feature of frog reproduction is external fertilization accomplished outside the female's body. Mature fertilization-competent frog eggs are arrested at the meiotic metaphase II with high activity of the key meiotic regulators, maturation promoting factor (MPF) and cytostatic factor (CSF), awaiting fertilization. If the eggs are not fertilized within several hours of ovulation, they deteriorate and ultimately die by as yet unknown mechanism.
Here, we report that the vast majority of naturally laid unfertilized eggs of the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis spontaneously exit metaphase arrest under various environmental conditions and degrade by a well-defined apoptotic process within 48 hours after ovulation. The main features of this process include cytochrome c release, caspase activation, ATP depletion, increase of ADP/ATP ratio, apoptotic nuclear morphology, progressive intracellular acidification, and egg swelling. Meiotic exit seems to be a prerequisite for execution of the apoptotic program, since (i) it precedes apoptosis, (ii) apoptotic events cannot be observed in the eggs maintaining high activity of MPF and CSF, and (iii) apoptosis in unfertilized frog eggs is accelerated upon early meiotic exit. The apoptotic features cannot be observed in the immature prophase-arrested oocytes, however, the maturation-inducing hormone progesterone renders oocytes susceptible to apoptosis.
The study reveals that naturally laid intact frog eggs die by apoptosis if they are not fertilized. A maternal apoptotic program is evoked in frog oocytes upon maturation and executed after meiotic exit in unfertilized eggs. The meiotic exit is required for execution of the apoptotic program in eggs. The emerging anti-apoptotic role of meiotic metaphase arrest needs further investigation.

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Available from: Alexander A Tokmakov, Apr 16, 2015
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    • "Most recently, two research groups, including ours, reported that the unfertilized Xenopus eggs laid outside of the frog body die by a well-defined apoptotic process [20,21]. In this case too, meiotic exit was found to precede apoptosis [21]. Notably, before being laid, Xenopus eggs are released from the ovaries into the coelomic body cavity. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background In several species with external fertilization, including frogs, laid unfertilized eggs were found to die by apoptosis outside of the animal body. However, there is no apparent reason for the externally laid eggs to degrade by this process, considering that apoptosis developed as a mechanism to reduce the damaging effect of individual cell death to the whole organism. Results Here, we demonstrate that a number of eggs are retained in the genital tract of the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis after gonadotropin-induced ovulation. The majority of these eggs exit meiotic arrest within 24 hours of hormone administration. Subsequently, post-meiotic eggs die in the frog genital tract by a well-defined apoptotic process. The hallmarks of egg degradation include prominent morphological changes, cytochrome c release, caspase activation, increase in ADP/ATP ratio, progressive intracellular acidification, egg swelling and all-out proteolysis of egg proteins. The sustained presence of post-apoptotic eggs in the genital tract of ageing frogs evidenced age-associated worsening of apoptotic clearance. Conclusions The direct observation of egg degradation in the Xenopus genital tract provides a clue to the physiological relevance of frog egg apoptosis. It works to eliminate the mature unlaid eggs retained in the animal body after ovulation. Our findings establish egg apoptosis as a major physiological process accompanying ovulation in frogs.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · BMC Cell Biology
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    ABSTRACT: Fertilization is a cell biological phenomenon of crucial importance for the birth of new life in a variety of multicellular and sexual reproduction species such as algae, animal and plants. Fertilization involves a sequence of events, in which the female gamete "egg" and the male gamete "spermatozoon (sperm)" develop, acquire their functions, meet and fuse with each other, to initiate embryonic and zygotic development. Here, it will be briefly reviewed how oocyte cytoplasmic components are orchestrated to undergo hormone-induced oocyte maturation and sperm-induced activation of development. I then review how sperm-egg membrane interaction/fusion and activation of development in the fertilized egg are accomplished and regulated through egg coat- or egg plasma membrane-associated components, highlighting recent findings and future directions in the studies using Xenopus laevis as a model experimental animal.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · International Journal of Molecular Sciences
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    ABSTRACT: Oocytes and eggs of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, are commonly used in gene expression studies. However, monitoring transcript levels in the individual living oocytes remains challenging. To address this challenge, we used a technique based on multiple repeated collections of nanoliter volumes of cytoplasmic material from a single oocyte. Transcript quantification was performed by quantitative RT-PCR. The technique allowed monitoring of heterologous gene expression in a single oocyte without affecting its viability. We also used this approach to profile the expression of endogenous genes in living Xenopus oocytes. Although frog oocytes are traditionally viewed as a homogenous cell population, a significant degree of gene expression variation was observed among the individual oocytes. A lognormal distribution of transcript levels was revealed in the oocyte population. Finally, using this technique, we observed a dramatic decrease in the content of various cytoplasmic mRNAs in aging unfertilized eggs but not in oocytes, suggesting a link between mRNA degradation and egg apoptosis.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2014 · FEBS Journal
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