Fertilizable eggs develop from diploid precursor cells termed oocytes. Once every menstrual cycle, an oocyte matures into a fertilizable egg in the ovary. To this end, the oocyte eliminates half of its chromosomes into a small cell termed a polar body. The egg is then released into the Fallopian tube, where it can be fertilized. Upon fertilization, the egg completes the second meiotic division, and the mitotic division of the embryo starts. This review highlights recent work that has shed light on the cytoskeletal structures that drive the meiotic divisions of the oocyte in mammals. In particular, we focus on how mammalian oocytes assemble a microtubule spindle in the absence of centrosomes, how they position the spindle in preparation for polar body extrusion, and how the spindle segregates the chromosomes. We primarily focus on mouse oocytes as a model system but also highlight recent insights from human oocytes.
Keywords: asymmetric division; centrosomes; chromosomes; kinetochores; meiosis; oocytes; spindle.