Control of oocyte meiotic maturation in C. elegans

Gabriela Huelgas-Morales, David Greenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In virtually all sexually reproducing animals, oocytes arrest in meiotic prophase and resume meiosis in a conserved biological process called meiotic maturation. Meiotic arrest enables oocytes, which are amongst the largest cells in an organism, to grow and accumulate the necessary cellular constituents required to support embryonic development. Oocyte arrest can be maintained for a prolonged period, up to 50 years in humans, and defects in the meiotic maturation process interfere with the faithful segregation of meiotic chromosomes, representing the leading cause of human birth defects and female infertility. Hormonal signaling and interactions with somatic cells of the gonad control the timing of oocyte meiotic maturation. Signaling activates the CDK1/cyclin B kinase, which plays a central role in regulating the nuclear and cytoplasmic events of meiotic maturation. Nuclear maturation encompasses nuclear envelope breakdown, meiotic spindle assembly, and chromosome segregation whereas cytoplasmic maturation involves major changes in oocyte protein translation and cytoplasmic organelles and is less well understood. Classically, meiotic maturation has been studied in organisms with large oocytes to facilitate biochemical analysis. Recently, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is emerging as a genetic paradigm for studying the regulation of oocyte meiotic maturation. Studies in this system have revealed conceptual, anatomical, and molecular links to oocytes in all animals including humans. This review focuses on the signaling mechanisms required to control oocyte growth and meiotic maturation in C. elegans and discusses how the downstream regulation of protein translation coordinates the completion of meiosis and the oocyte-to-embryo transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-99
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Gap junction
  • Meiosis
  • Oocyte meiotic maturation
  • Oogenesis
  • Signaling
  • Soma-germline interactions
  • Translational regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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