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4 January 2022 Age-associated changes in cumulus cells and follicular fluid: the local oocyte microenvironment as a determinant of gamete quality
Elnur Babayev, Francesca E. Duncan
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The ovary is the first organ to age in humans with functional decline evident already in women in their early 30s. Reproductive aging is characterized by a decrease in oocyte quantity and quality, which is associated with an increase in infertility, spontaneous abortions, and birth defects. Reproductive aging also has implications for overall health due to decreased endocrinological output. Understanding the mechanisms underlying reproductive aging has significant societal implications as women globally are delaying childbearing and medical interventions have greatly increased the interval between menopause and total lifespan. Age-related changes inherent to the female gamete are well-characterized and include defects in chromosome and mitochondria structure, function, and regulation. More recently, it has been appreciated that the extra-follicular ovarian environment may have important direct or indirect impacts on the developing gamete, and age-dependent changes include increased fibrosis, inflammation, stiffness, and oxidative damage. The cumulus cells and follicular fluid that directly surround the oocyte during its final growth phase within the antral follicle represent additional critical local microenvironments. Here we systematically review the literature and evaluate the studies that investigated the age-related changes in cumulus cells and follicular fluid. Our findings demonstrate unique genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic, and proteomic changes with associated metabolomic alterations, redox status imbalance, and increased apoptosis in the local oocyte microenvironment. We propose a model of how these changes interact, which may explain the rapid decline in gamete quality with age. We also review the limitations of published studies and highlight future research frontiers.

Summary Sentence Aging is associated with genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and redox status changes in the local oocyte microenvironment: cumulus cells and follicular fluid.

© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for the Study of Reproduction. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
Elnur Babayev and Francesca E. Duncan "Age-associated changes in cumulus cells and follicular fluid: the local oocyte microenvironment as a determinant of gamete quality," Biology of Reproduction 106(2), 351-365, (4 January 2022).
Received: 1 November 2021; Accepted: 30 December 2021; Published: 4 January 2022
Extracellular matrix
mitochondrial DNA
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