In this study we evaluated whether mouse oocytes derived from early antral or preovulatory follicles could affect the ability of preantral granulosa cells to sustain oocyte growth in vitro. We found that early antral oocytes with a diameter > or =75 microm did not grow any further during 3 days of culture on preantral granulosa cell monolayers in vitro, while most of the oocytes with a smaller diameter increased significantly in size. Similarly, about 65% of growing oocytes isolated from preantral follicles grew when cultured on preantral granulosa cells. By coculturing with growing oocytes fully grown early antral or preovulatory oocytes, a small proportion (about 10%) of growing oocytes increased in diameter, and changes in granulosa cell morphology were observed. Such effects occurred as a function of the fully grown oocyte number seeded and were not associated with a decrease in coupling index values. By avoiding physical contact between antral oocytes and granulosa cells, the proportion of growing oocytes undergoing a significant increase in diameter was about 36%. These results indicate that fully grown mouse oocytes can control preantral granulosa cell growth-promoting activity through the production of a soluble factor(s) and the maintenance of functional communications with surrounding granulosa cells.
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