Asymmetric cell divisions depend upon the precise placement of the spindle apparatus. In mammalian oocytes, spindles assemble close to the cell's center but chromosome segregation takes place at the cell periphery where half of the chromosomes are expelled into small, non-developing polar bodies at anaphase. By dividing so asymmetrically, most of the cytoplasmic content within the oocyte is preserved, which is critical for successful fertilization and early development. Recently, we determined that the nucleoporin ALADIN participates in spindle assembly in somatic cells, and we have also shown that female mice homozygously null for ALADIN are sterile. In this study we show that this protein is involved in specific meiotic stages including meiotic resumption, spindle assembly, and spindle positioning. In the absence of ALADIN, polar body extrusion is compromised due to problems in spindle orientation and anchoring at the first meiotic anaphase. ALADIN null oocytes that mature far enough to be fertilized in vitro are unable to support embryonic development beyond the two-cell stage. Overall, we find that ALADIN is critical for oocyte maturation and appears to be far more essential for this process than for somatic cell divisions.
- Mouse oocyte maturation and asymmetric cell division