Nitric oxide (NO) is a ubiquitous signaling molecule that plays a crucial role in oocyte maturation and embryo development. However, its role in oocyte aging is unclear. To examine how NO affects oocyte aging, we retrieved young and relatively old mouse oocytes and exposed them to increasing concentrations of NO donor S-nitroso acetyl penicillamine (SNAP). Aging related phenomena of ooplasmic microtubule dynamics (OMD), cortical granule (CG) exocytosis, zona pellucida (ZP) hardening, and spindle/ chromatin integrity were studied at each SNAP concentration using fluorescence immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy and compared with respective unexposed controls. Exposure of both young and old oocytes to NO resulted in a significant diminution in OMD and ZP dissolution time, whereas spontaneous CG loss decreased in old NO exposed oocytes compared to controls (P < 0.001 for all). Furthermore, NO exposure decreased the rate of spindle abnormalities in oocytes compared to unexposed controls. Interestingly, in old oocytes, the positive influence of NO was attenuated beyond 0.23 μM/min and disappeared at 0.46 μM/min NO. Overall, a significant dose-response relationship was noted between NO exposure and markers of aging with between 50 and 100 μM SNAP (0.11-0.23 μM/min NO, P < 0.0001). Collectively, our results demonstrate for the first time that exposure to NO delays oocyte aging and improves the integrity of the microtubular spindle apparatus in young and old oocytes.
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