Matrix-free 3D culture supports human follicular development from the unilaminar to the antral stage in vitro yielding morphologically normal metaphase II oocytes

Fuhua Xu, Maralee S. Lawson, Yukie Bean, Alison Y. Ting, Tanja Pejovic, Koen De Geest, Melissa Moffitt, Shoukhrat M. Mitalipov, Jing Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

STUDY QUESTION: Can group culture with stage-specific anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) modulation support human follicular development and oocyte maturation in vitro? SUMMARY ANSWER: In the presence of FSH, AMH supplementation at the secondary-to-early antral stage followed by AMH depletion promotes the coordinated growth and function of human follicles during group culture, thereby yielding mature oocytes. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Stage-specific AMH modulation promotes in-vitro development of nonhuman primate follicles. The group culture method supports nonhuman primate follicle growth from the primary to antral stage, producing developmentally competent oocytes. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Ovarian tissue samples were collected from 19 patients of reproductive age (22-47 years old having menstrual cycles) who underwent oophorectomy or hysterectomy for clinical purposes. Tissue pieces were cultured in a matrix-free system for 3 weeks followed by isolation of follicles for the subsequent 6-week individual or group culture. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Pieces of ovarian cortical tissue were cultured to support primordial follicle activation and early-stage follicle growth. Secondary follicles isolated from cultured tissue were then randomly assigned to two groups for individual culture: control and AMH modulation, i.e., recombinant human AMH protein supplementation during the secondary-to-early antral stage followed by the addition of neutralizing anti-human AMH antibody. Secondary follicles were also cultured in groups with the same AMH modulation. Follicle survival, growth, steroid hormone and paracrine factor production, steroidogenic protein expression, as well as oocyte maturation and morphology were assessed. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Follicles grew to the secondary stage during 3 weeks of ovarian tissue culture. In-vitro-developed follicles expressed AMH and levels of secreted AMH increased (P < 0.05) in the culture media over time. Secondary follicles isolated from cultured ovarian tissue survived and grew to the antral stage during 6 weeks of individual follicle culture. In-vitro-developed antral follicles produced granulosa and theca cell-derived steroid hormones and paracrine factors, which were detectable in the culture media. Germinal vesicle oocytes obtained from cultured follicles exhibited a perinucleolar chromatin rim configuration. AMH modulation did not alter follicle survival or oocyte maturation relative to those of the control follicles. However, follicle diameters, as well as steroid hormone and paracrine factor production, increased (P < 0.05) in the AMH-modulation group compared with the control group. Secondary follicles isolated from cultured ovarian tissue formed aggregates and grew to the antral stage during 6 weeks of group culture. In-vitro-developed antral follicles expressed steroidogenic enzymes and secreted steroid hormones were detectable in the culture media. Oocytes obtained from cultured follicle aggregates with AMH-modulation progressed to the metaphase II stage after IVM, containing a normal-sized first polar body and meiotic spindle. Oocytes exhibited a typical ultrastructure. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Follicles were obtained from fresh ovarian tissue of adult patients. Oocyte maturation rates were relatively low and oocytes were assessed by morphological evaluation. Owing to the lack of a control group, the beneficial effects of AMH modulation remained undetermined for the group culture in this study. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Stage-specific AMH modulation supports human follicular development in the matrix-free group culture, which is consistent with previously reported AMH actions on growing follicles in nonhuman primates. Oocytes generated by in-vitro-developed follicles achieve meiotic maturation with a typical morphology and ultrastructure, which supports in-vitro follicle maturation as a potential approach for fertility preservation in women. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): NICHD R01HD082208 and NIH Office of the Director P51OD011092. The authors have no competing interest to declare.N/A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1326-1338
Number of pages13
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Volume36
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 20 2021

Keywords

  • anti-Müllerian hormone / oocyte maturation / matrix free / fertility preservation / group culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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