Involvement of mitogen-activating protein kinase and intracellular pH in the duration of the metaphase I (MI) pause of starfish oocytes after spawning

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The metaphase I (MI) arrest of starfish oocytes is released after spawning. In this study using starfish Asterina pectinifera, the duration of MI after spawning was ∼20 min and ∼30 min in fertilized and unfertilized oocytes, respectively. This prolongation of MI in unfertilized oocytes, referred to as the MI pause, was maintained by mitogen-activating protein kinase (MAPK) as well as low intracellular pH (∼7.0). Contrary to previous reports, MI arrest was not maintained by MAPK, since it was inactive in the oocytes arrested at MI in the ovary and activated immediately after spawning. Also, cyclin B was not degraded at pH 6.7 in the cell-free preparation without MAPK activity, whereas it was degraded at pH 7.0, suggesting that MI arrest was solely maintained by lower pH (< 7.0). Normal development occurred when the spawned oocytes were fertilized before the first polar body formation, whereas fertilization after the first polar body formation increased the rate of abnormal development. Thus, due to MI pause and MI arrest, the probability for fertilization before the polar body formation might be increased, leading to normal development.

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