Deletion of Mylk1 in oocytes causes delayed morula-to-blastocyst transition and reduced fertility without affecting folliculogenesis and oocyte maturation in mice

Qiu-Xia Liang, Qing-Hua Zhang, Shu-Tao Qi, Zhong-Wei Wang, Meng-Wen Hu, Xue-Shan Ma, Min-Sheng Zhu, Heide Schatten, Zhen-Bo Wang, Qing-Yuan Sun

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The mammalian oocyte undergoes two rounds of asymmetric cell divisions during meiotic maturation and fertilization. Acentric spindle positioning and cortical polarity are two major factors involved in asymmetric cell division, both of which are thought to depend on the dynamic interaction between myosin II and actin filaments. Myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), encoded by the Mylk1 gene, could directly phosphorylate and activate myosin II. To determine whether MLCK was required for oocyte asymmetric division, we specifically disrupted the Mylk1 gene in oocytes by Cre-loxP conditional knockout system. We found that Mylk1 mutant female mice showed severe subfertility. Unexpectedly, contrary to previously reported in vitro findings, our data showed that oocyte meiotic maturation including spindle organization, polarity establishment, homologous chromosomes separation, and polar body extrusion were not affected in Mylk1fl/fl;GCre+ females. Follicular development, ovulation, and early embryonic development up to compact morula occurred normally in Mylk1fl/fl;GCre+ females, but deletion of MLCK caused delayed morula-to-blastocyst transition. More than a third of embryos were at morula stage at 3.5 Days Postcoitum in vivo. The delayed embryos could develop further to early blastocyst stage in vitro on Day 4 when most control embryos reached expanded blastocysts. Our findings provide evidence that MLCK is linked to timely blastocyst formation, though it is dispensable for oocyte meiotic maturation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number97
Number of pages9
JournalBiology of Reproduction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Meiosis
  • Morula-to-blastocyst transition
  • Mouse oocyte
  • Myosin II
  • Myosin light chain kinase (MLCK)

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