Ovulation is a complex process of releasing a fertilizable oocyte and depends on the proper formation of an extracellular hyaluronan rich matrix by the cumulus oocyte complex (COC). The formation of a HA rich matrix is dependent on the synthesis and organization of HA in the presence of several biomolecules that mediate its crosslinking. To gain an insight into the follicular maturation and COC expansion, we have studied the expression of hyaluronan binding protein 1 (HABP1), which is known to interact specifically with hyaluronan. The level of HABP1 increased markedly during ovulation after gonadotropin stimulation, and the overexpression was seen in mural granulosa cells, expanding cumulus cells and follicular fluid. However, HABP1 could not be detected in the luteal cells of corpus luteum after ovulation. Such increased expression of HABP1 was observed both during in vivo and in vitro conditions of COC expansion. The level of HABP1 transcript was upregulated up to fivefold after COC expansion as compared to compact COC. Immunofluorescence analysis showed HABP1 to be localized in the cytoplasm and extracellular matrix, suggesting its role in ECM organization. The cultured expanded COC treated with hyaluronidase for different time periods showed the gradual dispersion of COC, which coincide with the loss of HABP1 from the matrix suggesting that HABP1 is bound to hyaluronan. These results indicate that HABP1 expressed in rat COCs during maturation may facilitate the formation of the HA matrix in the extracellular space around the oocyte with cumulus expansion during maturation.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.