Cumulus oophorus, an investing structure unique to oocytes of higher mammals, is induced to synthesize an extensive extracellular matrix by ovulatory stimulus, leading to the characteristic preovulatory expansion of the cumulus-oocyte complex. The extracellular matrix consists of cumulus cell-secreted hyaluronan, proteoglycans and proteins, as well as extrafollicularly originated SHAPs (serum-derived hyaluronan-associated proteins) that are bound covalently to hyaluronan. The secretion and assembly of matrix molecules by cumulus cells are temporally regulated by factors derived from both mural granulosa cells and oocyte, which synchronize the deposition of the cumulus oophorus matrix with other intrafollicular ovulatory events. The cumulus oophorus matrix is essential for ovulation and subsequent fertilization. Recently, taking advantage of animal models with defined genetic modifications, it has become possible to investigate in vivo the structure of the cumulus oophorus matrix, the regulatory mechanism for matrix deposition and its biological functions. This review focuses on the recent findings on the construction of the cumulus oophorus matrix and the regulation.
2001 by Japan Society for Cell Biology