During antral folliculogenesis, developmental competence of prospective oocytes is regulated in large part by the follicular somatic component to prepare the oocyte for the final stage of maturation and subsequent embryo development. The underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Oocytes reaching the advanced stage of follicular growth by administration of exogenous follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) possess higher developmental competence than oocytes in FSH-untreated smaller follicles. In this study, the transcriptomic profile of the cumulus cells from cows receiving FSH administration (FSH-priming) was compared, as a model of high oocyte competence, with that from untreated donor cows (control). Ingenuity Pathway Analysis showed that cumulus cells receiving FSH-priming were rich in down-regulated transcripts associated with cell movement and migration, including the extracellular matrix-related transcripts, probably preventing the disruption of cell-to-cell contacts. Interestingly, the transcriptomic profile of up-regulated genes in the control group was similar to that of granulosa cells from atretic follicles. Interferon regulatory factor 7 was activated as the key upstream regulator of FSH-priming. Thus, acquisition of developmental competence by oocytes can be ensured by the integrity of cumulus cells involved in cell-to-cell communication and cell survival, which may help achieve enhanced oocyte-somatic cell coupling.
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