NQO2 inhibition relieves reactive oxygen species effects on mouse oocyte meiotic maturation and embryo development

Biol Reprod. 2017 Oct 1;97(4):598-611. doi: 10.1093/biolre/iox098.


NRH: quinone oxidoreductase 2 (NQO2) is a cytosolic and ubiquitously expressed flavoprotein that catalyzes the two-electron reduction of quinone to hydroquinones. Herein, we assessed the protein expression, subcellular localization, and possible functions of NQO2 in mouse oocyte meiotic maturation and embryo development. Western blot analysis detected high and stable protein expression of NQO2 in mouse oocytes during meiotic progression. Immunofluorescence illustrated NQO2 distribution on nuclear membrane, chromosomes, and meiotic spindles. Microtubule poisons treatment (nocodazole and taxol) showed that filamentous assembly of NQO2 and its co-localization with microtubules require microtubule integrity and normal dynamics. Increased levels of NQO2, reactive oxygen species (ROS), malondialdehyde (MDA), and autophagy protein Beclin1 expression were detected in oocytes cultured with ROS stimulator vitamin K3 (VK3), combined with decreased antioxidant glutathione (GSH). These oocytes were arrested at metaphase I with abnormal spindle structure and chromosome configuration. However, this impact was counteracted by melatonin or NQO2 inhibitor S29434, and the spindle configuration and first polar body extrusion were restored. Similarly, morpholino oligo-induced NQO2 knockdown suppressed ROS, MDA, and Beclin1, instead increased GSH in oocytes under VK3. Supplementary S29434 or melatonin limited changes in NQO2, ROS, MDA, Beclin1, and GSH during in vitro aging of ovulated oocytes, thereby maintaining spindle structure, as well as ordered chromosome separation and embryo development potential after parthenogenetic activation with SrCl2. Taken together, NQO2 is involved in ROS generation and subsequent cytotoxicity in oocytes, and its inhibition can restore oocyte maturation and embryo development, suggesting NQO2 as a pharmacological target for infertility cure.

Keywords: NQO2; ROS; S29434; embryo; meiosis; melatonin; oocyte.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents / pharmacology
  • Beclin-1 / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / drug effects
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / drug effects
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Meiosis
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Nocodazole / pharmacology
  • Oocytes / drug effects
  • Oocytes / enzymology
  • Oocytes / physiology*
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Protein Transport / physiology*
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Quinone Reductases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Quinone Reductases / genetics
  • Quinone Reductases / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Tubulin Modulators / pharmacology
  • Vitamin K 3 / pharmacology


  • Antifibrinolytic Agents
  • Beclin-1
  • N-(2-(2-methoxy-6H-dipyrido(2,3-a-3,2-e)pyrrolizin-11-yl)ethyl)-2-furamide
  • Pyridines
  • Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Tubulin Modulators
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Vitamin K 3
  • NRH - quinone oxidoreductase2
  • Quinone Reductases
  • Melatonin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Nocodazole