Oocyte maturation is a key issue of current animal biotechnology. This study was designed to examine the morphodynamics of the cumulus-oocyte association during oocyte maturation. Porcine cumulus-oocyte complexes were recovered from slaughterhouse ovaries; matured in vitro for 0, 24, 36, and 44 h; and evaluated by scanning electron microscopy either combined or not combined with the osmium-dimethyl sulfoxide-osmium maceration (ODO) method. The cytoskeleton distribution was also observed by fluorescence staining. Prior to maturation culture (0 h), the spherical cumulus cells were tightly clustered around the oocyte, with narrow intercellular spaces. They showed active secretion at 36 h and were fully expanded at 44 h of culture. The ODO methods revealed that the cumulus cells projected numerous long and thin transzonal projections at 0 h, but these were largely disconnected at 44 h. The outer surface of the zona pellucida showed a meshwork surface regardless of time of incubation, whereas the inner surface changed from a fine fibrous surface to a spongy surface that was coated with mucin. The vitelline surface changed from a sparse distribution of short microvilli (MV) to a dense distribution of well-developed MV. Fluorescence staining showed that the cumulus cell projections consisted mainly of microfilaments, which were abundant at the germinal vesicle and metaphase-I (M-I) stages (0–24 h) but which were decreased in number at the M-II stage (36–44 h). We conclude that the cumulus-oocyte transzonal projections became disconnected between the M-I and M-II stages as a result of cumulus expansion. The cumulus-cumulus communications, however, remained intact at these stages, although the biological functions of these communications were not clear.
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