Background: In human oocytes, as in other mammalian ova, there is a significant variation in the pregnancy potential, with approximately 20% of oocyte-sperm meetings resulting in pregnancies. This frequency of successful fertilization decreases as the oocytes age. This low proportion of fruitful couplings appears to be influenced by changes in mitochondrial structure and function. In this study, we have examined mitochondrial biogenesis in both hamster (Mesocricetus auratus ) and mouse (Mus musculus) ova as models for understanding the effects of aging on mitochondrial structure and energy production within the mammalian oocyte.
Methodology/principal findings: Individual metaphase II oocytes from a total of 25 young and old mice and hamsters were collected from ovarian follicles after hormone stimulation and prepared for biochemical or structural analysis. Adenosine triphosphate levels and mitochondrial DNA number were determined within individual oocytes from young and old animals. In aged hamsters, oocyte adenosine triphosphate levels and mitochondrial DNA molecules were reduced 35.4% and 51.8%, respectively. Reductions of 38.4% and 44% in adenosine triphosphate and mitochondrial genomes, respectively, were also seen in aged mouse oocytes. Transmission electron microscopic (TEM) analysis showed that aged rodent oocytes had significant alterations in mitochondrial and cytoplasmic lamellae structure.
Conclusions/significance: In both mice and hamsters, decreased adenosine triphosphate in aged oocytes is correlated with a similar decrease in mtDNA molecules and number of mitochondria. Mitochondria in mice and hamsters undergo significant morphological change with aging including mitochondrial vacuolization, cristae alterations, and changes in cytoplasmic lamellae.