Rapamycin improves the quality and developmental competence of mice oocytes by promoting DNA damage repair during in vitro maturation

Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2022 Apr 18;20(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s12958-022-00943-0.


Background: Increasing evidence has shown that the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway plays a critical role in oocyte meiosis and embryonic development, however, previous studies reporting the effects of rapamycin on oocyte IVM showed different or even opposite results, and the specific mechanisms were not clear.

Methods: The immature oocytes from female mice underwent IVM with rapamycin at different concentrations to select an optimal dose. The maturation rate, activation rate, subsequent cleavage and blastocyst formation rates, spindle assembly, chromosome alignment, mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), ROS levels, and DNA damage levels were evaluated and compared in oocytes matured with or without rapamycin. In addition, the expression levels of genes associated with mTORC1 pathway, spindle assembly, antioxidant function, and DNA damage repair (DDR) were also assessed and compared.

Results: Rapamycin at 10 nM was selected as an optimal concentration based on the higher maturation and activation rate of IVM oocytes. Following subsequent culture, cleavage and blastocyst formation rates were elevated in activated embryos from the rapamycin group. Additionally, oocytes cultured with 10 nM rapamycin presented decreased ROS levels, reduced chromosome aberration, and attenuated levels of γ-H2AX. No significant effects on the percentages of abnormal spindle were observed. Correspondingly, the expressions of Nrf2, Atm, Atr, and Prkdc in IVM oocytes were markedly increased, following the inhibition of mTORC1 pathway by 10 nM rapamycin.

Conclusion: Rapamycin at 10 nM could ameliorate the developmental competence and quality of IVM oocytes of mice, mainly by improving the chromosome alignments. The inhibition of mTORC1 pathway, which involved in activating DDR-associated genes may act as a potential mechanism for oocyte quality improvement by rapamycin.

Keywords: DNA damage; In vitro maturation; Oocyte quality; Rapamycin; mTOR.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst / physiology
  • DNA Damage*
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Female
  • In Vitro Oocyte Maturation Techniques* / methods
  • Mammals
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / genetics
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sirolimus* / pharmacology


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Sirolimus