Single human oocyte transcriptome analysis reveals distinct maturation stage-dependent pathways impacted by age

Aging Cell. 2021 May;20(5):e13360. doi: 10.1111/acel.13360. Epub 2021 Apr 28.


Female fertility is inversely correlated with maternal age due to a depletion of the oocyte pool and a reduction in oocyte developmental competence. Few studies have addressed the effect of maternal age on the human mature oocyte (MII) transcriptome, which is established during oocyte growth and maturation, however, the pathways involved remain unclear. Here, we characterize and compare the transcriptomes of a large cohort of fully grown germinal vesicle stage (GV) and in vitro matured (IVM-MII) oocytes from women of varying reproductive age. First, we identified two clusters of cells reflecting the oocyte maturation stage (GV and IVM-MII) with 4445 and 324 putative marker genes, respectively. Furthermore, we identified genes for which transcript representation either progressively increased or decreased with age. Our results indicate that the transcriptome is more affected by age in IVM-MII oocytes (1219 genes) than in GV oocytes (596 genes). In particular, we found that transcripts of genes involved in chromosome segregation and RNA splicing significantly increased representation with age, while genes related to mitochondrial activity showed a lower representation. Gene regulatory network analysis facilitated the identification of potential upstream master regulators of the genes involved in those biological functions. Our analysis suggests that advanced maternal age does not globally affect the oocyte transcriptome at GV or IVM-MII stages. Nonetheless, hundreds of genes displayed altered transcript representation, particularly in IVM-MII oocytes, which might contribute to the age-related quality decline in human oocytes.

Keywords: BMI; advanced maternal age; ageing; assisted reproduction; fertility; human oocyte; single-cell RNA-Seq; transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Oocytes / growth & development
  • Oocytes / metabolism*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome*
  • Young Adult