Background: Cumulus cells (CC) encapsulate growing oocytes and support their growth and development. Transcriptomic signatures of CC have the potential to serve as valuable non-invasive biomarkers for oocyte competency and potential. The present sibling cumulus-oocyte-complex (COC) cohort study aimed at defining functional variations between oocytes of different maturity exposed to the same stimulation conditions, by assessing the transcriptomic signatures of their corresponding CC. CC were collected from 18 patients with both germinal vesicle and metaphase II oocytes from the same cycle to keep the biological variability between samples to a minimum. RNA sequencing, differential expression, pathway analysis, and leading-edge were performed to highlight functional differences between CC encapsulating oocytes of different maturity. Results: Transcriptomic signatures representing CC encapsulating oocytes of different maturity clustered separately on principal component analysis with 1818 genes differentially expressed. CCs encapsulating mature oocytes were more transcriptionally synchronized when compared with CCs encapsulating immature oocytes. Moreover, the transcriptional activity was lower, albeit not absent, in CC encapsulating mature oocytes, with 2407 fewer transcripts detected than in CC encapsulating immature (germinal vesicle - GV) oocytes. Hallmark pathways and ovarian processes that were affected by oocyte maturity included cell cycle regulation, steroid metabolism, apoptosis, extracellular matrix remodeling, and inflammation. Conclusions: Herein we review our findings and discuss how they align with previous literature addressing transcriptomic signatures of oocyte maturation. Our findings support the available literature and enhance it with several genes and pathways, which have not been previously implicated in promoting human oocyte maturation. This study lays the ground for future functional studies that can enhance our understanding of human oocyte maturation.
- Assisted reproductive technology
- Cumulus cells
- Cumulus-oocyte complex
- Gene expression
- Oocyte maturation