The proportion of mouse oocytes that were fertilized in vitro after storage at -196°C in the presence of 1.5 M dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) was significantly lower than in unfrozen controls (39% vs. 81%). Sperm failed to penetrate the zona pellucida of ~80% of the frozen oocytes that remained unfertilized. Removal of the zona restored fertilization to control levels, indicating that changes induced in the zona during freezing and/or thawing were the primary cause of fertilization failure. Sperm-oocyte fusion, sperm nucleus decondensation, and the resumption of meiosis in frozen oocytes appeared to be delayed but subsequently fertilization progressed normally. No evidence was found to suggest zona modification by the premature release of fucosyl-rich glycoconjugates of cortical granule origin onto the surface of the plasma membrane of frozen oocytes stained immediately after thawing with fluorescently labeled Ulex europaeus lectin. Only a few frozen (< 5%) and control (< 3%) oocytes that failed to fertilize in vitro had fucosylated molecules on the plasma membrane. Prolonged exposure of fertilized oocytes to DMSO at 4°C did not alter the pattern of lectin binding. In conclusion, fertilization is inhibited in frozen-thawed oocytes by as yet undefined modifications to the zona pellucida which do not involve the premature release of cortical granules.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology