Acquisition of oocyte developmental competence needs to be understood to improve clinical outcomes of assisted reproduction. The stimulation of cumulus cell concentration of cyclic adenosine 3'5'-monophosphate (cAMP) by pharmacological agents during in vitro maturation (IVM) participates in improvement of oocyte quality. However, precise coordination and downstream targets of cAMP signaling in cumulus cells are largely unknown. We have previously demonstrated better embryo development after cAMP stimulation for first 6 h during IVM. Using this model, we investigated cAMP signaling in cumulus cells through in vitro culture of cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) in the presence of cAMP raising agents: forskolin, IBMX, and dipyridamole (here called FID treatment). Transcriptomic analysis of cumulus cells indicated that FID-induced differentially expressed transcripts were implicated in cumulus expansion, steroidogenesis, cell metabolism, and oocyte competence. Functional genomic analysis revealed that protein kinase-A (PKA), extracellular signal regulated kinases (ERK1/2), and calcium (Ca(2+)) pathways as key regulators of FID signaling. Inhibition of PKA (H89) in FID-supplemented COCs or substitution of FID with calcium ionophore (A23187) demonstrated that FID activated primarily the PKA pathway which inhibited ERK1/2 phosphorylation and was upstream of calcium signaling. Furthermore, inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation by FID supported a regulation by dual specific phosphatase (DUSP1) via PKA. Our findings imply that cAMP (FID) regulates cell metabolism, steroidogenesis, intracellular signaling and cumulus expansion through PKA which modulates these functions through optimization of ERK1/2 phosphorylation and coordination of calcium signaling. These findings have implications for development of new strategies for improving oocyte in vitro maturation leading to better developmental competence.
Keywords: ERK1/2; PKA; cell signaling; cumulus cells; cyclic AMP; oocyte maturation; transcriptomics.
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