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Mouse zona pellucida dynamically changes its elasticity during oocyte maturation, fertilization and early embryo development

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A change in the elasticity of mouse zona pellucida was quantitatively evaluated during oocyte maturation, fertilization and early embryo development. Young's modulus of zona pellucida of germinal vesicle (GV), metaphase-II (MII), pronuclear (PN), 2cell, 4cell, 8cell, morulae (M) and early blastocyst (EB) stages was measured using a micro tactile sensor (MTS) and a chamber exclusively designed for the measurement. The MTS has very high sensitivity and a deformation of only 5 µm was sufficient to calculate the Young's modulus and the oocyte/embryo maintained its original spherical shape during the measurement. The Young's modulus of GV, MII, PN, 2cell, 4cell, 8cell, M and EB was 22.8 ± 10.4 kPa (n = 30), 8.26 ± 5.22 kPa (n = 74), 22.3 ± 10.5 kPa (n = 66), 13.8 ± 3.54 kPa (n = 41), 12.6 ± 3.34 kPa (n = 19), 5.97 ± 4.97 kPa (n = 6), 1.88 ± 1.34 kPa (n = 8) and 3.39 ± 1.86 kPa (n = 4), respectively. Experimental results clearly demonstrated that the mouse zona pellucida hardened following fertilization. Interestingly, once the zona pellucida hardened at the PN stage, it gradually softened as the embryo developed (i.e. it was found that the zona hardening is a transient phenomenon). Furthermore, the zona pellucida of the GV oocyte was as hard as that of the PN embryo and became soft as it matured to the MII stage. In addition, the safety of the MTS measurement for oocytes and embryos was discussed both theoretically and experimentally.
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Keywords: Young's modulus; elasticity; micro tactile sensor; zona hardening; zona pellucida

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Nihon University, College of Engineering, NEWCAT Institute, and 2: Inui Maternity Clinic, Inui Institute for Frontier Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, Fukushima, Japan

Publication date: November 1, 2006

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